Chicken to Tok... and an Improbable Meeting

Monday, July 6;
Decamped and ran over to the diner/cafe at one of the other RV parks in Chicken where yesterday we had been promised fresh hot peach cobbler for breakfast this morning. Sign said the place opens at 8am. We arrived a few minutes before 9. Closed. Some other hungry looking folks were milling around and could add nothing to the mystery of the locked diner, so we left. And there was no scent of fresh peach cobbler floating in the air. Headed on down the road. But boy-o-boy, did I want a taste of that cobbler.

Didn't go far as we found a great BLM campground just 19 miles down the road. Uncrowded, free firewood, only $5. The only thing it didn't have is good WIFI... just like all the other campgrounds and RV parks we've been to. We made camp in the best site and diddled away the afternoon. Not many bugs either. Finished the day with a good campfire and hit the sack early.

Tuesday, July 7;
Left the campground mid-morning for the short run down to Tok. The Taylor Highway (which connects the Alaska Highway with Chicken and Eagle) is what you'd call a "variable" road. North of Chicken, it's all gravel and dirt and downright treacherous in spots. Between Chicken and the Alaska Highway it is paved, (sorta'), with long gravel-breaks every few miles. Since doing the Dempster to Inuvik and then the Top of the World Highway, our sense of what a good road is has become somewhat skewed... and we're happy with anything that's not mud.

At Tetlin Junction the Taylor Highway ends at the Alaska Highway, and it was a nice, smooth, 12 more miles into Tok. Tok is the historic junction of the Alaska Highway with the Tok Cutoff portion of the Glenn Highway.. the road that takes the eager traveler southwest toward Anchorage. We needed to give the camper batteries a good soaking and we needed a good shower... so we found a campground with both for a reasonable price and set up camp.

Originally, we had planned to do the core Alaska experience in a counter-clockwise direction. This would have taken us to Fairbanks first, then down past Denali to Willow, Palmer, Anchorage, and the Kenai Penninsula before finishing the loop at Tok again. Due to our slow pace and travel plans on the part of good friends we'd like to connect with, we decided to reverse that course and do the big loop in a clockwise direction. So tomorrow morning we'll head south out of Tok and toward Valdez, the Kenai Peninsula, and Anchorage.

So here's the big story some of you have been waiting for: Today in Tok, after having lunch at Fast Eddy's, I was out in the parking lot doing my cursory walk around before driving off. I met the eye of a guy who was parked next to me and he said he was curious about our little camper. We chatted for a few minutes. When he found out we were from Wisconsin he pointed to his Green Bay Packers cap and more conversation ensued. He said there's a sports bar in his hometown, Wasilla, where all the local Packer fans gather on game days during the season. It's called the Arctic Circle Bar... and he said we really need to stop and check it out when we come through. He's a real fan of the Pack, in part, because he went to school with Jerry Kramer, a very good Packer offensive lineman from the past. The conversation was getting long but it was clear we were both enjoying it. Topics switched and we touched on politics. He made the comment that his daughter was kinda' into politics too. He paused for a moment, gave me a smiling sideways glance with a raised eyebrow, and said "You may have heard of her. I'm Sara Palin's Dad."
"You're kidding me, right?"

He was serious. And a few minutes later his wife, Sara's Mom, came out of the restaurant and we talked for another 30 minutes... about dogs, and Alaska, and family, the state of education and how the USA was going to hell. He was an educator during his working years and just was having a hard time dealing with the sub-standard education most of our kids are getting these days.

We exchanged cards and will try to connect up with him when we go through Wasilla. And that's the improbable story of how, in fact, we ran into Chuck and Sally Heath, Sara Palin's Mom and Dad, the nicest couple you'd want to meet.

View from our campsite south of Chicken

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