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 primary industry here is to service highway travelers. The unique thing about Tok is that 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 S.S. 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. We will bid Alaska farewell tomorrow and begin our trip home via the Yukon Territories, British Colombia, and along the U.S. 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, 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 premises. 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 they hold their world-famous pancake toss on the stage behind the office every evening. 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 is practice, but you win a free pancake breakfast in the morning if you get the second one in. Of course, during the show, everyone gets to introduce themselves, tell where they are from, and what they hope to see on their trip. Each person tells their own story, and a lot of ribbing 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 (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 I should have written about this 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 a rub from some of our ingredients and a bottle of spice that Fred had borrowed.

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 have to 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 an electric smoker for me to use. The ribs have been on for three hours now, and there are two more to go before the judging. My ribs look great, but 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 looking great. I didn’t want them to dry out at this point, so I turned the heat down.

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


Also, although it doesn’t matter, the judges marginally voted for my ribs. I don’t believe there’s a loser 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 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!