Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!

I made a mistake. I blame it on being tired and partially on my general increasing forgetfulness.

img_04961After quite a pleasant drive from Tok to Glenallen despite the general achiness and stiffness of long drives, I arrived in Glenallen with a serious need for coffee and a pitstop. Took care of business, got in my car, and headed back out into the evening dusk.

It wasn’t until Gakona that I looked at my gas tank and realized something very stupid. I forgot to gas up in Glenallen!

I debated about heading back to fill up the tank but felt I was far enough away from Glenallen that I thought I better keep going. I put in a call while I had momentary cell signal to my husband and asked him to figure out the next gas station between Gakona and Tok.

He called back to say Gakona was the next one. Of course, I had already passed Gakona and noted a big red “X” through the gas pump symbol on the sign of services along the highway.

“Where’s the next one?”

He asked his buddy who makes the Tok/Anchorage drive pretty often.

“I don’t think there is another one until Mentasta Lake,” he told me.

“I don’t think I can make it to Mentasta Lake on about 1/4th of a tank,” I told him. “But I could swear I saw at least one other gas station past Mentasta and before Glenallen.”

I scoured my brain for the image of a gas station somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Now where WAS it?

“Possibly Chistochina?” he said hopefully.

I remembered Chistochina from my drive to Anchorage when I saw a horse wandering along the highway. I had stopped at a trailer park where I saw a guy warming up his car.

“Hi there, I just saw a horse in the road,” I told him as I rolled down the passenger window to speak with him.

He sauntered over to my car, curious.

dscn0113“What’s that?”

“A horse along the highway, I just saw it and wondered if you knew who’s horse it was?”

“That’s Charlie’s horse. It’s been out there for about 3 months now,” he chuckled.

“Okay, just checking that nobody lost a horse,” I said and headed back to the road to Anchorage.

Chistochina. Maybe there’d be a gas station there.

The roads past Glenallen began to get icier and the sky darkened quickly.

By the time I began seeing a few mailboxes and tiny lights from houses behind dense trees and the school and crossroads, it was cold and dark.

And then I saw Posty’s on the left side of the road. Gasoline!

After 30 degree weather in Anchorage, the biting cold snuck up on me then bit into my hand as I pumped gas into the 4Runner. Guess I should have put on my gloves.

The lady in Posty’s let me call my husband on her phone to let him know I had a full tank. She asked what kind of phone I had and explained that ACS works well in Chistochina and AT&T works well 20 miles outside of town either way but not the other way around.

“Had to switch from AT&T to ACS just to get a signal in town,” she explained.

I thanked her for use of her phone and headed back into the frigid night.

One Smart Moment

Having lived in Wyoming, I’m pretty diligent about monitoring not only my speed but to keep a sharp eye open for wildlife on the side of the road that might dart out any moment. As I got closer to Tok, I knew I couldn’t relax because it was nighttime and that’s when the forests come alive.

I saw the sign for Tok 10 miles and had a fleeting thought that “many car deaths happen less than 10 miles from home.”

And then there was a moose in the road.

I didn’t panic. I braked gently.

The tires didn’t grab the road but instead I began to slide, ice crunching under the car.

The moose began to walk across my lane.

I eased to the left, into the oncoming lane. And came to a stop inches from the moose’s path as he completed his stroll across the lane where I had just slid. He made it to the other side of the road.

If there had been oncoming traffic, that moment would not have been pretty. Instead, I moved back into my lane, leaving the moose – intact – behind me.

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17 Comments

  1. Wow, that’s quite an adventure. I’m glad you are okay since there had to be quite a few “white knuckle” moments on that drive.

    4Runner vs. moose…that’s quite a match-up. Still, I think you could have taken him (and then, if you were on the “list”, have taken him home).

    Reply
  2. Another reason I wouldn’t survive in Alaska. I always wait until my car is on fumes before I even think about a gassing up.

    Reply
  3. I had to laugh…You are NOT stupid, it’s just part of the experience! I did the EXACT same thing last year (only I was lucky enough to experience it in the summer!) In my case I was so worried about getting on the wrong road that I had somehow missed the big gas station in Glennallen. – Don’t know how that is even possible. – But, to add to my expereince, I did NOT get to “take care of business” in Glennallen and therefore was not only out of gas, but in a lot of pain! ha……

    Anyway, it’s all just part of the journey, don’t feel bad! Thank goodness you made it home safe.

    Reply
  4. Enjoyed the story, thanks! Very well written too. Glad it worked out!

    Reply
  5. Chris Brua

     /  January 23, 2009

    OK, I’m hooked! You are required reading every morning for me while I wake up and have coffee. It’s a goal for me to move to Alaska – not sure when but one day.
    I’m glad your drive turned out well.

    Reply
  6. LOL. I always carry extra gas when out & about in AK. Also, a hefty survival kit including candles to melt snow for water. 🙂
    MOOSE>> do not move for anyone, do they? They are in NO hurry. Wait until you come upon one on a narrow trail out in the woods… whew.
    I’m glad you got home safe & sound! Hooray.

    Reply
  7. bela

     /  January 24, 2009

    so you drove from tok to glennallen and then turned around and drove home? why the 2 hr drive for a turnaround? and gakona is only 15 miles or so from glennallen thats too far to drive back for gas?

    Reply
  8. Big Bumper Bill

     /  January 24, 2009

    Ahhhh, The lovely TOK CUTOFF…what, it’s like, National Wild Animal Suicide Week, or something? Moose will be hanging out on the side of the road , just thinking po-dunk moose thoughts for hours, and then, for some reason, right as you’re driving by them, they get the notion that they just HAVE to cross the road at that same moment. What’s with that, anyways?

    So, here’s the places to keep your eyes peeled on the Tok Cutoff:
    -From the HAARP base at Mile 12 to Chistochina: that’s “Caribou Alley #1”;

    -Indian River to the beginning of the hills; Lot’s o’ ‘Boo there, too:

    -Slana to Mentasta : lot’s o’ Boo, maybe a moose, too, around Tor’s place at Mile 71;

    -Mineral Lakes to the Little Tok: lot’s o’ moose buddies;

    -Clearwater overflow, pretty much all the way to 7 Mile Hill: Moose Alley!

    Gosh, when you think of it, THE WHOLE DANG ROAD IS FULL OF CRITTERS JUST WAITING TO JUMP OUT IN FRONT OF YOU!!!

    I think I’ll just stay home today!

    Reply
  9. No bela, I drove from GlenAllen to Tok – didn’t turn around. Gakona did not have gas and I had already passed it anyway. So ended up getting gas in Chistochina. Sorry if my recounting of the story was confusing!

    Reply
  10. Big Bumper Bill

     /  January 24, 2009

    PS- always carry a sharp knife, a tarp, and some string!

    Reply
  11. Ann

     /  January 24, 2009

    These kinds of stories make my skin crawl!…because I identify as well.

    I also have to confess that my first instinct is to react with, “Duh! That WAS stupid and risked your life!” While that sentiment may have some truth in it, thus are the foibles of humanity. I’m so glad you’re all right.

    Less than 36 hours ago, a 43 year old man native to this west central area of Minnesota froze to death in his car less than 5 miles outside of Moorhead. Roads were slippery the day before. He obviously slid off the road into the ditch, didn’t have a cell phone, didn’t have adequate clothing (he was probably just “running an errand” or on his way home in the evening or whatever). They found his body part way out of the car, with the door open and some of his clothing removed (by himself–symptom of end stages of hypothyrmia). Absolute tragic and frustrating.

    Completely avoidable, and yet I understand that point where we make 2 or 3 tiny decisions that turn into commitments we never actually intended to make at all.

    I get more and more careful as I get older, not because I’m “scared” or “smarter”, but just because I realize how easy it is to be deceived with regard to pushing the safety limits with regard to weather, fatigue, physical endurance, etc. Again, I’m so glad you got safely home.

    Reply
  12. Ann

     /  January 24, 2009

    As I re-read, I realize I want to tell you that my written tone in the first paragraphs is harsher than I am feeling! Sorry about that! If we were having a coke together, you’d see my body language and know that I am not thinking you’re stupid:(. That’s the one drawback of blogging that I’ve not figured out how to overcome: the lack of eye contact and ability to assess one another’s body language demands far more care and thought w/re to words chosen, and too often I forget that while I’m madly typing away.

    Reply
  13. Ann – I totally understood where you were coming from. Hey, I didn’t title my post “Stupid” for no reason. I realized only after the fact how my decision-making process in the moment wasn’t really up-to-snuff, and I consider myself lucky to have gotten gasoline soonafter.

    FYI, my thought process at the time had also been that if I did not find a gas station in Chistochina, then I would stop at the nearest suitable place – B&B for example (of which there are several along the way) – and stay for the night. Then I would have waited the following day for the cavalry (my husband) to arrive with gas.

    Reply
  14. Mike

     /  January 24, 2009

    Great story. I’ve been through that stretch several times. Everyone’s life literally revolves around Glenallen. It’s easy to forget the distances and the critters. I live in Indiana so it’s not an everyday thing here.

    I had a similar gas “situation” on the Parks Highway in 2002 when I simply forgot to fill up in Cantwell for the trip back to Anchorage. After awhile I finally shared my mistake with my fellow travelers as we continued on south. We finally made it on bare fumes to a station near Wal-Mike’s before you get to Talkeetna turnoff. Whew!

    Reply
  15. I learned surfing south of the border to “Never pass gas in Baja.”

    Reply
  16. Garrett

     /  January 26, 2009

    I might not be reading it right but was that horse alive and just hanging out there for the past 3 months? Or was it frozen to death?

    Reply
    • Garrett – he was just wandering around town, quite hearty, it seems. The guy I asked seemed amused that I was concerned – like it is an every day occurrence to have a horse wandering around the highway in sub-zero temps.

      Reply

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