Day 33 – July 8, 2001 – We had a short day in front of us, we thought, so we had a leisurely breakfast and started toward Tok, AK. It was only approximately 180 miles and, even as slowly as we travel, that wasn’t a long day. That was before we crossed the Yukon River by ferry and started up the “Top of the World” Highway. During all the planning for this trip, this was the leg that always gave me nightmares. There is something about the phrase “Top of the World” that sounds ominous. Ben said he thought it was probably called that because it was so far north but he was wrong. There is a reason it is called “Top of the World”! As soon as you cross the ferry, you start up and the road becomes a series of continually increasing grades. The highest point was a little less than 4,000 feet but the grade to reach it was probably more than 15%. And, since we were starting at sea level, it was a long hard climb in a Model T. But I would rather have been in a T than in one of those monster motor homes we saw hugging the edge of those 1,000 foot drops! The biggest part of the road was draped in heavy fog (or possibly clouds) and you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of your car. When we finally broke through the clouds, the view was incredible.
We passed easily through Customs and re-entered the State of Alaska. The roads, which had been a surfaced gravel with numerous potholes, became dirt and more pothole than road. The 11 miles from the border to the Taylor Highway were like driving through a minefield. We thought the Taylor Highway would be better – it is a “highway” after all. Wrong! We drove 60 miles at about 10 mph trying to avoid breaking an axle. The final 40 miles of the highway were paved and we all cheered as though the road were made of gold. The town of Tok was a pretty welcome sight after more than 12 hours on the road, driving only 180 miles.