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Days 38-41 – Setbacks

August 11, 2017

Well, if I didn’t want to deal with major problems and unplanned expenses, I suppose I should have stayed home. I had a slight moose problem a few days ago.

But first, picking up up where I left off:

After Kenai Fjords National Park, I got up late in Seward, the last town on that particular highway before the road ends. I could have spent the better part of the day there, but I wanted to get close to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park by end of day. So I just drove around a bit, taking a few photos of the seascape and the city.

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Downtown Seward

After Seward, I drove the 2Ā½ hours back to Anchorage, got something to eat, burned up several more hours in a couple book stores, walked around downtown a while…

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Downtown Anchorage

…found my way to Point Woronzof Park…

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Looking across Cook Inlet

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…where I stepped around a fence with a sign reading “DANGER – Unstable Bluffs – Stay Out” to get a photo of the city skyline:

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About an hour later, I was heading east on Glenn Highway, when I apparently decided it would be a good idea to let my attention wander while driving through moose country. At exactly the same time, a juvenile moose decided it would be a good idea to walk in front of me while I was going 60 miles an hour, and this happened:

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The moose was dead on impact or soon after, and so was the Cherokee. I managed to limp about a half mile to a gas station before the serpentine belt snapped.

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Really, when it comes to hitting a moose, I could not have gotten off lighter. If I’d hit a full grown bull, things would have been much worse. First off, I was alive. That’s far from a certain outcome when hitting an adult bull. The damage to the truck, while extensive, was repairable. And, like I said, I was only a half mile from a gas station, where I could use a phone. An hour further out, and I would had had a very different night.

After I called the police non emergency line, a state trooper came by at about 11:30 to take the report, and a tow truck showed up around midnight. Not knowing anything about the area I was in, I was open to suggestions as to where he would take me.

After a 1am speakerphone conversation between the tow driver, his boss, and myself that I didn’t really follow, the driver dropped the me at the scrap yard he was based out of. I stayed the night there in the truck. My understanding was that the scrap yard had enough Jeep Cherokees that they’d be able to pull all the parts I’d need, and there was a repair shop on site.

I woke up the following morning locked inside a random junkyard in Wasilla, 3,000 miles from home, wondering just what I’d been thinking the previous night. Eventually workers started showing up and the place was open for business, but neither the driver I’d dealt with or the owner were there, so no one knew who I was or what I was doing there, behind their locked gates, first thing in the morning. After a lot of explanations on my side and a lot of phone calls and texts on their side, my presence was accounted for at least.

By this point, I’d found out that there wasn’t a repair shop on site. This was just a pick-a-part and impound lot. The owner’s notion was that I could just pull all the parts I needed off of their Cherokees and install them on mine.

When it comes to DIY projects, I’m used to being smarter than the average bear. In Alaska, I seem to be a bit of a dullard. The guys at the yard seemed to be thinking, “What, you can’t rebuild the entire front of your vehicle, including the windshield, by yourself, in a gravel lot, with a couple wrenches? Are you, like… slow or something?”

There was talk about one or two of the yard guys helping out for the day, but shop politics quickly put an end to that. Which was fine, because the more I looked at the truck, and I’d been spending a lot of time starting at it, the less confident I was that the repair was just a matter of swapping the windshield and a few body panels. Besides, after an searching the lot, I’d found that none of their dozen or so Cherokees matched my body style, so they wouldn’t even have most of the parts I’d need.

I needed options that weren’t to be found there. Everyone there was kind, and the guys were helpful as they could be, but the fact was I needed a body shop and mechanic, and they were a pick-a-part scrap yard.

After some Google-fu, I made a few calls, and got in touch with a shop in Anchorage that specializes in Jeep repair and modification. This was more like it. Even better, they knew a guy who could tow me there miles for $100.

I assumed this guy they knew would be a tow truck driver who maybe was on his way back to Anchorage and could pick me up on the way. Instead, he was a dude with a Chevy Blazer and a kind of suspect DIY trailer. I just shook my head and rolled with it. When in Alaska, do as the Alaskans do.

The tow when off without incident, and by 8:00 that evening, I was back in Anchorage, and the Cherokee was with a proper mechanic.

I have give special mention here to Raul and his guys at Alaska Jeep Parts. In just over a day, they did 2-3 days worth of repairs, getting the Cherokee back on the road, and charged me a lot less then they could have.

The windshield, front grill, hood, right fender, radiator, power steering pump, serpentine belt, upper tie bar, and electric cooling fan all had to be replaced. There was also a lot of bending and pulling on the front end to get everything to fit back together.

With a list like that, it still came out to a lot of money, but considering the number of man hours I know they put into it, I made out like a bandit.

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Good as new. Or, close enough. I’ll worry about paint and other cosmetics when I get back to LA.

Hopefully, this is the last major mishap on this trip. I’m now over budget and behind schedule, and the 3,000 mile distance between me and home is starting have a different feeling to it. I anticipated and budgeted for problems, but much more goes wrong, and I’ll be cutting past the skin and into the meat.

…Onward.

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3 comments

  1. Wow. I thought when I caused the death of Bambi’s dad it was bad.


  2. To continue…due to technical problems šŸ˜¦
    anyway, as I was saying…

    Thankful your encounter was not what it could have been.
    And I’m glad to know you can find the humor in tragedy šŸ™‚


  3. Thanks for this rest of the story post . Glad I was not part of this real but glad it worked out in your favor .



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