Moved from it's original LiveJournal location that has most of the comments.
So, now that I have 1) Rested, 2) Caught up a bit at work 3) Read my Emails and 4) Caught up on all your live journals, I can start letting some people know what happened on the trip to the North Pole.
The trip has so much depth that it could easily make a rather long novel, but I'll try to keep it a bit shorter than that.
Friday both myself and Moliere worked a bit late making sure our respective companies would not go bankrupt in our absence, and we got to her house at about 8pm and spent an hour packing and eating sloppy and gross burritos. We made sure we had a severe overkill of survival gear, clothing and road auto repair equipment, thinking this was more than we could ever need. The funny thing is, you would be hard pressed to find anything we packed that did not get used on the trip, including the emergency survival equipment. After we were packed, we reset the trip odometer on her Father's Oldsmobile Bravada (yes, this *is* your father's Oldsmobile) and took off to drop off the Hedgehog in Mount Vernon. These are not fancy codewords, we really did have to drop off a hedgehog in Mount Vernon.
* Odie The Hedgehoge
At this point, a scant 40 miles up the road, I should expound on the "why". mostly because it's there, and it is something you will never in your normal life experience. It is otherworldly... the temperature is the same as a normal day on Mars. The air does weird things. Water is a mineral, not a precipitant. It is weird and alien and something you will only see on the Discovery Channel... but you can drive there in your own car. So that's what I wanted to do. I love driving. A long drive is one of the most relaxing things on the planet for me, and I have driven most of the roads in the US, but I am always fascinated with "the end of the road." A road that goes so far out into the wilderness that it just can't go any farther. Locally, if you follow these, even up here in the Seattle area, you will end up places with chickens in the front yards of houses and Cars on blocks, people so far out they can't be employed because there is no industry nearby, and sometimes I drive a new road out to these places to see what's there. This time, I wanted the ultimate end of the road experience. Drive due North until the world ends. That I did, and it does. It end's abruptly, not with a bang, but with a whimper, at the end of the road to the end of the world. Why in January? Because in June, it looks like Nevada in December. In January it is truly unique.
OK, maybe a map would be in order to follow my progress, with the blue line showing my progress:
So, we leave Mount Vernon, heading North about 10:30 Friday night and plan on driving a LONG way, which we succeed at doing. We cross the border, telling the Canadian border guard we are going to the Yukon, as I have qualms about admitting our true destination, for she might not let insane people into the country. She asks how far we are going tonight, and I tell her Prince George (beyond the northern border of the map) and she smirks, thinking we are silly. We made it much further that first stretch and showed her up. Across the border, as we headed into the mountains towards Hope, we hit some nasty gale force winds that blew the car about pretty good, known as an Arctic Outflow which was a new term to me. It apparently means that somewhere it's butcracky cold and the air is rushing over the temperature differential. As we came out of the mountains, we got a feel for that temperature differential, as we reached temperatures of -18 F. We thought that was cold, and in fact, I burned my hand on a gas pump there. That was probably the last time I went outside without gloves until the trip back. Further down the road, as we reached Clinton, the temperature dropped to -32 F, and we got pictures of ourselves outside in -27 F, seeing if our spit froze before hitting the ground and acting tough. How naive we were to real cold. -32 F was the coldest we would see for a while.
* Typical Road Conditions
* Us in a balmy -27 F thinking we are tough
We had breakfast at a Denny's in Prince George, where it was a balmy -18 F, and having worked all day and drove all night I decided to take a nap for a couple hours while Moliere drove for a bit. The roads were covered in ice now, and they would be for the rest of our trip until we reached Prince George on the way back. While trying to get to sleep, i realized our reserve gas tank was leaking a bit, but Moliere fixed it up with Bungees and toilet paper.
Moliere woke me up as we reached the pass. We were not sure what passes would look like up this far north, so we chained up, which was a waste of time. The pass was beautiful, and the weather sunny. We found out that the tops of mountains were the warmest places you could go. Apparently the atmosphere thinning and making it colder is overwhelmed by the fact that -20 F air sinks very fast into the valleys. If you are freezing to death here, go up. As darkness approached, we reached Dawson Creek, and milepost zero of the Alaskan Highway. We walked into a bar here, but there was no smoking, so screw that, and we headed north up to Fort St. John, which is a big town. We decided, it only being Saturday night, we were making such good time that we should get a room for the night. We stayed in the Best Western on the south end of town and went next door for a drink at the bar. The bar was amazingly modern, looking more like a Starbucks than what you would expect from a northern town.
* Phonetic Canadian Road Sign
After Prince George I noticed that civilization had pretty much ended except for small pockets. There were hundreds of miles of nothingness, then a town. Towns that had no urban sprawl, but were just islands of civilization in the untamed wilderness. In Fort St. John there was a Wal-Mart, and a Safeway, and quite a bit of infrastructure, but apparently the entire town subsisted on an oil field a couple miles to the south. It was also becoming more and more apparent that Canadians, even in the south, are not very demanding of their conveniences. Traveling like this was something commercial trucks did at night, not cars. Gas pumps accept commercial cards only, not Visa. The roads throughout Canada are crappy compared to the ones back home. And the homeless population is horrible. Even small outskirt towns and suburban areas have homeless people in numbers similar to downtown Seattle. These aren't crazy ones either, like we tend to have. These seem to be otherwise normal people who just live on the street. At this point we were starting to get our Canadian accent down pretty good to. Kind of a mix of Eskimo, English and French, spoken slower than normal with en Eh at the end.
* Near Fort Nelson
I left a brief LJ post in the morning from the hotel in Fort St. John and we headed towards Fort Nelson. We made it there uneventfully and bought liquor at the liquor store there, calling people because I had cell service on Telus there. Just outside of town we saw our first wildlife... 2 moose off the side of the road. We hit the pass and saw 2 elk, and just on the other side we hit snow hard. We stopped in Toad River and bought gas and a hat and continued on at about 30 MPH in a blizzard at -15 F. The visibility was horrible, and there were a few trucks coming the other direction. At these temperatures, when a truck cuts through the air, the Carbon Dioxide comes out of solution and makes a huge dry ice cloud which cuts visibility to zero for about 30 seconds. Combine this with driving snow and you simply have to stop whenever a truck passes and wait for the fog to pass. The melting point of Cabon Dioxide is -67 F... at times we hit -72 F. Contrarily, we were warned about ice fog, where the fog actually freezes into ice crystals, but let me tell you, that is nothing. When the fog freezes it becomes sparser and it is not as bad a regular liquid fog no matter what scare tactics someone tries to use.
* Caribou. We saw about 100 on the trip, Along with 2 Elk, about 5 Moose, a Wolf, an arctic Snow Bunny and a very friendly Dog
We made it out of the blizzard and to Watson Lake. It was 11pm and for the first time, we simply could not get Gas. There are NO automated pumps in the Yukon. If someone is not manning the store, then there is no gas. I was hopping mad because I had planned to drive through the night to Whitehorse, but now we had to stop. The gas station opened at 7am and I set the alarm for that time. We hit the local dive bar and we got to see 2 Yukon bar flies. This was something on my checklist to see, so I got amusement as a consolation whilst I sipped my Wisers whiskey. Later on down the road we heard others scoff at Watson Lake. Apparently it is the Renton of the Yukon. We stayed in the Big Horn Motel and left early. The beds there were quite comfortable, the best on the trip. This was the first time we saw the TV do weather reports in both English and weird Eskimo hieroglyphics.
The snow persisted, but not as bad as the night before. We came across a place near Teslin, whose bathrooms were all frozen up for days, so we couldn't pee there, but we got coffee. Along the way, we decided to try a side quest for extra xp and try every flavor of Canadian potato chip. My favorite was Black Pepper and Lime, while Moliere's favorite was sweet chili and sour cream. Szechuan beef was weird, as was dill pickle, but the scariest and most disgusting was ketchup flavor. OMG that is nasty. Anyway, at Jake's Corner, we met a guy who we told we were headed to Dawson City and we asked how the roads were. He thought we were crazy for going to Dawson City. The Ice Fog was deadly... the roads were scary, the caribou would kill us, there would be no one to help us, if we were lucky to survive another hour and make it to Whitehorse, we should fly home from there and never come back. I'm not sure how that guy leaves the house in the morning. Anyway, a few minutes after leaving there, we saw our first caribou, the Carcross herd, on the road. There was about 100 caribou we would see later. As we approached Whitehorse, the weather turned and became sunny again. We went through Whitehorse, which is an amazingly large town and here we left the Alaskan Highway and onto the Klondike highway. Early afternoon, at the moment of my birth 31 years earlier, I pulled over and accepted my birthday present. A nice leather passport holder. Thanks, Moliere. A little way up the road we saw a real live wolf. The trees started looking very odd at this point. Short and sparse and growing at odd angles at times. Things were becoming a bit alien.
* Where we stopped for my birthday. There was a forest fire here a few years back.
As we continued on, the temperature started dropping fast. It seemed to stabilize at -40 F, but as we soon learned, when our thermometer hits -40 F it really means somewhere between -40 F and -55 F. Approaching Dempster's Corner outside of Dawson City, the temperature fell to Error Degrees. This is what we call OMGWTFBBQ!!!1111!!one!!eleven!1 cold. We called it something more heretic actually, but this is a public post. Contrary to my assumptions, your pee does not hit the ground solid here, but rather, it boils away and vaporizes before it hits the ground, leaving the ground untouched. We actually broke the thermometer at this point and it would flash 140 F, and then OC F. We got further estimates of the temperatures we traveled through (down to -72 F) from radio reports since we could no longer gauge. Here there was a BIG difference between hill tops and valleys, sometimes rising 30 degrees in a couple hundred feet. At Dempster's Corner we got gas and ate burgers and met a couple who worked at the lodge there but lived in Inuvik (inn-oo-vick). The woman was an attractive Eskimo who's family was from Tuktoyaktuk (Tuck-Toy-Ack-Tuck) where we were going. They thought we should fly to Tuk, but we were insistent on using the ice road. We called ahead to Eagle Plains lodge and the lady there said she would leave a key out for us on the front desk because she was going to bed. The northern lights were amazing here, and we thought they would be like that from now on, but we learned shortly that they only do that from time to time and we should have stopped for the show. But it started a while later, so we were good. We left the northernmost asphalt we would be on and headed up the Dempster, the road was amazing for being gravel. The gravel is very sharp and interlocking and is designed to freeze together into a hard surface and not sink into the permafrost, and doing 60 MPH is easy on it. At points we did up to 90 MPH. This was the longest stretch of our journey between gas pumps; about 280 miles. We crossed the pass over what, due to a slip of the tongue, we called the Richard Simmons mountains, which were tall with no trees on them and we passed "warning wild arctic horses crossing" signs, but we didn't see any. Getting out to pee and smoke, the snow had a weird, glassy texture that cracked like shattering glass when you walked on it. About halfway there, the sky lit up hardcore with lights. I jumped out of the car and everything was ablaze. You know the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where everyone melts and turns to spirits? It was like being inside the movie. Absolutely amazing blues, reds, pink, yellow and green in ribbons that seemed alive. It lasted for about 5 minutes, then was gone. We saw the lights from then on, but not like that.
* Dempster Highway
A bit further up the road, I shut the car off to try to get some pictures of the lights. I tried for a bit, but I don't think I got any. Getting back in the car, in Error Degrees, I went to start it. Nothing. It was 1 am, error degrees outside, and no power to the car at all. I got out, put jumper cables on the battery, and tested... no spark. It appeared the battery was drained. Only explanation in my mind was a dead alternator, and this wasn't a good place for it. I imagined a $2000 towing bill, but no time for that. We needed to stay warm, and we had no engine. One of the sleeping bags had gotten gas on it from the leaky tank, so I took that and the tank out of the car and put it across the windshield to trap some heat. I left the hood up to be sure someone passing by would see we were in distress. Inside the car, we extracted the 0 degree and 35 degree rated sleeping bags, put on the warm clothes, laid out the reflection pad across the bed of the car, with the bags on top, put on knit gloves, lit a survival candle for warmth, and huddled our sleeping bags together. We could be out here for 2 days if no one came along. I would try to work on the car when the sun came up and the temperature spiked up to -40 F or so, but for now we were stuck. It was probably about -10 F in the car with the candle, and I knew if it got much colder I would wrap us in survival bags independently, but for now we huddled together for warmth. Moliere seemed quite impressed that even in those conditions, my head stays screwed on straight, I was generous and more worried about her safety, and my stinging sarcastic humor was not at all diminished.
* Typical Arctic Forest
About 2 hours passed when some Eskimo kids came racing up in a pickup truck and stopped. There wasn't room for us in the truck, but they could send someone back from Eagle Plains for us. Thinking it was the alternator, there wasn't much hope in getting it started for long, but being only an hour out of Eagle Plains, I thought maybe we could make it with a good jump and I convinced them to try. We got ready to jump the car, when, without full connection, the headlights to my car popped on. I ran to turn it over, but they left again. I got under the hood and started yanking wires hard, and they popped on again and I could start it. I didn't need a jump at all. Something unexpected had happened. At those temps, the wires seem to shrink so much that they lost their contacts, so you have to yank them around until you fix the problem if you lose power like that. That happened a few more times on the trip, always at low temps. We were off and soon reached Eagle Plains.
Eagle Plains Lodge was a dingy hotel with a gas pump out front. We slept well and had breakfast in the lodge in the morning and experienced a brief power outage. We then took off towards Fort Nelson. We stopped at the Arctic Circle and I made a snow angel, then we crossed the Rocky Mountains for the 3rd time and into the North West Territories. Right before Fort Nelson we had our first river crossing where we drove on top of the river to get to the other side. There was another one at Tsigehtchic (which we decided was pronounced "Touch-A-Hot-Chick" for lack of any better explanation.) This was down on the Mackenzie River Delta, which is wide and totally flat. The trees are very stubby here and there is nothing for hundreds of miles. There is water everywhere and this would be a giant Bayou if it ever thawed, which it doesn't. It was a straight road to Inuvik, and when we got there we were amazed that it was a cute and pretty nice sized town; an island of civilization in the middle of nowhere. We stopped and ate dinner consisting of a musk ox burger, a caribou burger and poutine, which is an odd french Canadian side dish where you take french fries, pour brown gravy over them, cover them in mozzarella cheese and bake it. It's gross but good.
* Us at the Arctic Circle
* Hmmm. What to do at the Arctic Circle?
* I have an idea!
* An Arctic Circle Snow Angel!
The road ends in Inuvik. Here you take a boat launch down onto the Mackenzie River, which is huge, almost the size of the Mississippi, and you drive on top of the river. They plow it every couple of days, and it isn't bad as long as you are on the river. We were not destined to stay on the river, however. We passed a road closed sign, but hey, they probably close the road as the sun goes down, so who cares, right? We will be in Tuk in 2 hours, it's cold and rated for 64000 lbs, and the weather is nice the whole way. After the fact, I think that sign is there always (or used to be) to keep outsiders from trying it. A nice day out there is a nightmare.
* Ice road in the best conditions
We headed out, reaching the mouth of the river, and caught our first snow blast. Driving at 60mph, we clipped a drift and spun out into a huge snow bank. There was no damage to the car, but it was enough to shake us. We were at the halfway point though, so we might as well finish. Things got very bad from here as we crossed the "Northern Limit To Trees" line. The winds were a nice 20mph, about as soft as they get there, and we were headed out to see on the Arctic ocean. You see, water being a mineral up here, it makes a fine sand, and accumulates in dunes out on top of the ocean. There is a never ending sand storm going on, covering, uncovering, and recovering everything, with a slick sheet underneath it which is the ocean you are driving on. They plow it, but after a couple hours, the road just blows away again. In the dark, you can't see if you are on the road or not at times, and the winds blind you to zero visibility now and then. There are large drifts across the road, when you can find it and the temperature drops quite drastically out there. I am sure that in a gale force wind, your car could be scooted like a hockey puck hundreds of miles out to sea to freeze to death. The road made a sharp right at one point, but being blinded at the moment I didn't see it and crashed into a 12 foot high snow bank, but we got out. We continued, but the temperature being so extreme out on the ocean, the fuel line froze up and the car stalled, only to be revisited by the wiring problem. Knowing the wiring solution now, I was able to get things restarted. The power steering froze up and we stalled 2 more times, at times thinking we might sleep out here on the ice with no land in sight. We were wondering where the hell Tuktoyaktuk was and rather scared. We hit land once, but it turned out to be just an island we drove over. We were lost at sea in an Oldsmobile, finding, and then losing again the road. We had the radio on scan and eventually we picked up some radio in Eskimo. We must be getting close. We saw up ahead a lighthouse and we drove towards it. We took a huge sigh of relief as we made landfall. We were here. We made it to the top of the world in Tuktoyaktuk.
* We are driving on this on the ocean
We drove around, looking for the hotel we knew was here. We finally realized we had passed it a couple times, as it was just another trailer (a $250 a night trailer.) called Hotel Tuk. We pulled up and went inside. There was a teenage boy there and we told him we had called ahead and needed a room. He said to us "I don't know. I will have to go find my Nanna." So we waited. An old Eskimo woman came in and signed us in and pointed out the room. She wasn't very nice, but no one here was. These are a miserable people. They have been miserable for hundreds of generations. They are cold and holed up for the winter. We stayed in a room next to a room with a paper on the door which read "Courtney Love Slept here. September 2-4, 1995" If it is good enough for a heroin junkie, then it's good enough for me I always say. The room was tiny, and very pink and orange and old and falling apart, but it was warm. We went out for a cigarette and a little Eskimo boy looked at us funny, said something in not-English, and started laughing. He walked away laughing and looking at us. Moliere asked what he said and I replied "I think he said `Stupid White People'". We spent the night in this place.
* The lovely Hotel Tuk. Same price as the Luxor.
The town of Tuk looks like a trailer park, with the trailers all on stilts so they don't sink into the permafrost. These are stone age people with pickups, satellite TV and snowmobiles. They have a community freezer for when the polar bear hunts go well. They are not happy. I don't know why they don't move.
* This was noon, heading back out onto the Arctic Ocean from Tuktoyaktuk
In the morning, we left around 11am. We tried to find a mechanic to look at the problems the car was having, but there was no one at all doing anything in this town, and no coffee; people don't leave their trailers here. It was very dark, but the sky was showing some twilight. The gas pump was supposed to be open at 10am, but it wasn't. We drove around and went to the airport where there were trucks running outside and went in. We found 6 Eskimos playing cards upstairs. I asked if the Ice road was safe yet and they said they had already been out on it, and yes, so we decided to go. It was noon and the sun was not up. It would not come up today in Tuk, probably not for another week. We saw some Pingo's in the distance, which are bulging mountains of permafrost caused by the lateral pressure of the ice, and the Arctic ocean was amazing to be on while it was light. Conditions on the road however were worse than the night before. This was as good as it got. We spun out again, but not quite as bad, and I got good at moguling the car through drifts, spinning it back and forth fishtailing through series of moguls. At one point, blinded completely, I saw immediately ahead 2 five foot drifts in front of us. I gunned it so as not to get stuck and caught air on the first, landing atop the second and kept going.
* Out at sea. A bit past noon. That's the sun BELOW the horizon.
Having not filled up in Tuk, we ran out of gas a bit after we caught up with the sun (we drove south until it rose.) We had plenty in the back though so I got out and filled up. We came across an enormous plow and I was going to pass him, until I saw that 10 foot wide huge wooden road closed sign we had passed on the way up. He kept going straight in his 10 ton piece of machinery and went straight through it at 60 MPH, exploding the sign in every direction. He didn't even slow down. "Road's open I guess." I said.
* Sunrise as we head south to catch up with it. Notice the snow drifts over the ice road. This is a fairly good stretch of road.
We pulled into Inuvik and filled up with Gas. We needed a break after the adrenaline and pure terror of another ice road journey, so we hit a cafe and had a chai tea latte to remind us of home. We also found a 300 year old man who looked like a tall Yoda who appeared to be a mechanic. He couldn't look at our car, which we were nervous about, but he seemed to think all the stalling and electrical problems were perfectly normal. In a bit, we were back on the road south from Inuvik.
We ran out of gas before Eagle Plains, but we had some left in the tank in the back and made it there, where we refilled the spare tank. We stopped in the bar and Moliere had a drink. It was the girl's 21st birthday who had cooked us breakfast the day before and we had a fun chat. They were impressed we had actually made it. Back on the road south we almost hit some Caribou, but we both escaped unscathed.
* Crossing into the Northwest Territories from the Yukon
We were hoping there would be gas in Dawson City, but we were too late. It was Error Degrees outside (It was -72 F we found out) and the car was stalling and having power problems again. There was no power steering and no gas, so we HAD to stop. The Hotel left keys in the doors, so we let ourselves in and got warm and slept, hoping to leave early in the morning. That was not to be though. The warmest it would get the next day was -41 F, and the car was frozen solid, gan, oil, everything. There was a garage across the street and I braved the elements and went over. There was nothing they could do to start the car, even with torches that they normally use on cars that had been plugged into a block warmer and still froze. The car needed 12 hours indoors to thaw. We had it towed across the street and into the garage and it started the next day.
* The Far Northern Rockies
So, we were stranded in Error Degrees. There was a gas station about 100 yards away from our hotel room, so we decided to try to make it to get some food. The mild wind burned badly. Moliere's eyelashes were freezing together and my glasses stuck to my face, frozen in place. This was cold. So, stuck in the Yukon in Error Degrees with questionable prospects of getting home and nothing else I could do, I drank a lot that night and was happy anyway.
* 4th and Final Rockies crossing
The next morning we were off towards Whitehorse. There was a slight mishap, however. A large ice patch next to a bridge at a 90 degree turn in Stewart's Crossing caused the car to want to occupy the same space as a bridge at the same time. The bridge won resulting 5 MPH conflict and we were out our front bumper, license plate and left headlight. We called her mom and apologized, but she just laughed. As we approached Whitehorse, we came upon Braeburn Lodge. Now we had heard about the amazing 3 pound cinnamon rolls here as far south as Watson Lake and as far north as Inuvik, so we thought we should stop. They were truly large and we bought one, but the best part was the owner of the place is none other than Santa Claus himself! He has 3 dogs that he feeds out the window named Ruby, Opal and Sapphire, and when they come to the window to beg and stick their heads in they look like Cerberus. Santa is a jolly old man who makes giant cinnamon rolls when he's not making toys, and he had a nice lady friend who convinced us to take the Stewart-Cassier highway home. So, on we drove through Whitehorse and we were a bit late for gas at the Stewart-Cassier, so we slept in Watson Lake so we could take it in the morning rather than staying on the Alaskan Highway.
The next morning we were headed down the 37. This was a much smaller highway and we saw lots of Caribou and a few moose. There was some pretty heavy snow, but the going was easy until Stewart.
Wait a sec! Stewart? We had made a wrong turn and ended up at Alaska! How many people can say that? Anyway, it was about 8:45 and there was a Cafe open with some nice old ladies, so we had dinner. I must say, Stewart is one of the cutest, most amazing little towns I have ever seen, being at the end of a massive Fjord separating Alaska and Canada. The walls of the Fjord go up about 5000 feet straight up on all sides and the mountains and glaciers are amazing. Near Stewart they have the 5th largest Blue Ice Glacier in the world, and it is also the most accessible (you can see it from the highway). We drove back to the main road and quickly ended up with a flat tire. All of our fix-a-flats, having frozen solid a few times, turned out to be useless, so we had to put on the spare. We found civilization again in New Hazelton and Western Civilization followed us all the way home. There was a nasty ice rain though that night that slowed me down to about 20 MPH, and I finally got fed up and was very tired at 5am when Art Bell ended, so I pulled in behind an auto glass shop in Houston and took a 3 hour nap in the driver's seat.
* Error Degrees
I drove to Prince George when the sun came up, and drove for a bit while I took a nap. We were ready to go straight home, but the extreme Snow, followed by cold snap, followed by heavy snow, followed by torrential rain had choked all the rivers in southern British Columbia and had taken out our bridge home, so we had to head about 4 hours east to another route. We got there, only to find they were closing THAT route. We hurried and were the last cars allowed through before they closed it completely. Otherwise our only way home would have been Eastern Alberta and through Montana.
We had dinner in Kamloops at Dairy Queen, and things were pretty uneventful on the way back. We got gas in Hope, which is a totally creepy Pleaseantville kinda place and we wanted to escape there ASAP. The border guard seemed really suspicious, but we were to tired to care, and we got home Monday Morning at 4 AM, ready to leave for work at 9 AM and go back to our regularly scheduled lives. About 5400 miles altogether on the odometer.
Advice to others? Think about taking 2 cars and caravaning so you don't have to be rescued by Eskimos. Your survival gear is NOT silly. Wear gloves always. Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment. Watch for Caribou on the road. Don't trust the locals. Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportion'd thought his act. Have lots of gas, as that will be your main concern. This above all - those last 80 miles are a doosey, the rest is pretty easy.
* FIN *