Tok – Alaska

Tok (rhymes with Coke) is a small town along the Alaska Highway not a hundred miles west of the Canadian border. Sometimes on the road signs it’s called Tok and other times Tok Junction, since it’s where Alaska Highway (AK 2) and the Richardson Highway (AK 1) intersect. Because of its site, the main industry here is to service highway travelers. The unique thing about Tok is, if you drive into Alaska, it’s the only community you have to go through twice.

Queen Anne and I returned to Tok yesterday and the rest of the gang will arrive this afternoon. (The SS Minnow did return to port late yesterday and everyone had a great time, see Deb’s comment in the Valdez post for details) This means we’ve completed our circular tour of the state. By this time tomorrow, we will have bid Alaska farewell and begun our trip home via Yukon Territories, British Colombia and along the US west coast.

We’re staying at the Sourdough Campgrounds RV Park and Cafe run by Tim and Tracy Hulett. They both share responsibilities in running the park and café. Tim cooks and Tracy handles the tables. Tracy checks in guests and Tim does maintenance in the park.

The park has two shticks going for it. The first is that they have a quarter car wash on the premise. I can’t begin to tell you how important that was to us after driving down the muddy Chicken Road. The second unique thing they do here is every evening they hold their world-famous pancake toss on the stage behind the office. OK, so someone in England knows about it and that makes it world-famous.

Every night, Tim has about a dozen pancakes on a platter, and every attendant gets a turn at tossing two pancakes into a bucket. The first one is practice, but if you get the second one in, you win a free pancake breakfast in the morning. Of course, during the show, each person gets to introduce them self, tell where they are from and what they hope to see on their trip. Each person tells their own story and there is a lot of ribbing that goes on. For example when our gang all stood up and said that we were from Congress, no one believed anyone was left in town.

When someone is ready to toss a pancake (and the secret is to toss and not try to fling them Frisbee style), they say ready and the rest of the audience has to chant encouragement. If Tim catches someone not chanting, they have to go in front of the audience and get chanting lessons.

I know that this is something I should have written about last month, but I didn’t. We had WiFi problems and I had to catch up on several posts. I also knew that we would be back . . . for another reason.

Rub on the Roibs
Last night I made up a rub from some of the ingredients we had, and a borrowed bottle of spice from Fred.

After the show we attended, we all sat around the campfire that Tim builds each evening and just chatted. We enjoyed our wine and asked to hear Tim’s story . . . which eventually led to cooking. As we compared favorite foods, he boasted about his ribs. I turned to Anne and said, “Here, hold my beer; watch this.” And that’s how the first ever Great Tok Rib Smack-Down was born.

Borrowed Smoker
This is the electric smoker that Tim let me use. I’ve never used one like this before. The way I figure, If I lose, I can blame the smoker. If I win, I gotta get me one of these.

It took a month looking for ingredients to make my sauce and Tim graciously supplied a couple of rib racks and electric smoker for me to use. The ribs have been on for three hours now with two more to go before the judging. My ribs look great and I haven’t even put sauce on them yet. Tracy has enlisted two or three people checking in to serve as judges. They won’t know who the cooks were.

Chef at Work
The ribs are half done now and are looking great. At this point, I don’t want to let them dry out, so I turned the heat down.

I honestly don’t care who wins. I see the event as a kind of going away party; a celebration of our time in Alaska. The best thing of all, is that when we hit the road, we’ll be driving a sparkly clean truck and trailer behind.


P.S. Although it doesn’t really matter, the judges marginally voted for my ribs. I don’t believe there’s a looser here, because we both enjoyed cooking. Thanks again for the hospitality Tim.

 Tim Offer Congratulations
Jim and café owner, Tim Hulett, shake hands in congratulations.

P.S.S. At this evening’s pancake toss, yours truly won a free pancake breakfast.

And so the adventure begins. The Alaska Journey

The gang poses for a portrait.
The gang takes a pack break to pose in front of the caravan. From left to right: Anne, Jim, Sally, Fred holding Gus and Deb.

Hold on to your hats, folks, because after a year of planning and packing, our road trip to Alaska and back to Arizona is finally kicking off tomorrow morning. We’ll be hitting the road from Congress, driving through Prescott, Verde Valley, and Flagstaff, and then spending the night in Kanab, Utah. I don’t know about you, but I won’t feel like I’m out of town until we’re on the other side of the San Francisco Peaks.

We’ve spent the last month getting our vehicles ready, but there’s always something else to pack. This morning, we had to make an emergency run to get longer chains because, of course, the hitch needed replacing. The pile of stuff in the dining room is smaller now, but I can’t shake this feeling that we’ve forgotten something… something important. But hey, at some point, you just have to get in the car and go. We’ll figure out what we forgot when it’s too late to turn back.

Our route will generally follow the I-15 corridor until we get to Montana, then we’ll cross the Continental Divide and head into Canada on the east side of the Rockies. From there, we’ll drive through the Canadian Rockies up to the Yukon Territory, and eventually reach Fairbanks.

We’ll make a loop through Alaska, hitting up Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, and the Kenai Peninsula before making our way back to Tok. And then, we’ll finally start the journey home. We plan to take a more scenic route on the way back, traveling along or near the coast until mid-California. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves – who knows what kind of trouble we’ll run into along the way.

I’ll be posting updates from our journey, but it would take something pretty catastrophic to stop me from doing so (knock on wood). But hey, if something does happen, at least it’ll make for a good story, right? See you on the road!