At this point in our journey down the Alaskan Canadian highway we hadn’t had any trouble getting fuel . It was about 1 day out from the place where we had fixed our truck that we began to notice the gas stations were getting farther and farther apart. We checked on our maps and determined the next station was within a comfortable distance and we would make it there with a little more than a quarter of a tank left. (Travelers experience note: Always call ahead to make certain wilderness gas stations are still open)
Oh no! The gas station on our map was no more! It was closed for good! Checking our trusty road maps we located the next station. Knowing exactly how many miles per gallon we had been getting we estimated that we would run out of gas about 75 miles before we got to the next station. And that was using the spare can of gas that we had tied to the rear end of the truck. Oh no!
It was late at night. No one else was on the road. We kept watching the gas gauge move towards the E. We had never been this low on fuel. It was my turn to drive. Hubby was trying to sleep in the back at this point. He kept waking up and poking his head through that cab window to look at the gauge.
“Keep it steady, no accelerations or decelerations, ” he intoned for about the 20th time. I was too nervous to even respond. When he could no longer sleep he crawled through the window to sit up front with me. Then he began to explain about 55 being the optimal speed for gas conservation (for the 20th time as well). At this point I didn’t think it mattered because we were obviously running on prayers and fumes anyway.
All I could see was pitch black outside just beyond our head lights. I tried to keep a steady pressure on the accelerator and maintain that magical speed of 55. I could hear and feel the gravel on the road being thrown out to the sides of the truck. (In 1983 not all of the Alcan Highway was paved.) Suddenly 3 figures darted out into the road just ahead of us and I slammed on the brakes. The cats, (who were peeking through the cab window) tumbled forward into the floor of the truck. “Hey don’t slow down!” hollard my man! “Do you know how much more fuel we’ll use trying to get back up to 55?! In one movement he grabbed both cats and flung them through the window into the back of the truck with our daughter. I looked at him and said as calmly as I could, “If I had hit one of those bear cubs, I don’t think we’d be alive because that giant momma bear over there would rip our truck apart trying to get at us!” We both looked over to our left and saw the dark figures of momma brown bear and two baby cubs loping across the tundra. Praying slient thankyous, we both let out sighs of releif.
We resumed our fuel consumption. By our best estimates we should have run out of fuel 25 miles ago and still had 25 more to go. I kept glancing at the guage, and the speedometer. It was now well past the E. Had I seen it move? Twenty five miles later the truck was still running and it was 2 am as we pulled into the gas station. The lights were off and everyone was obviously asleep. We parked and turned the motor off.
The next morning after we had gotten a few hours sleep, we tried to start the truck. It wouldn’t. Appears we had used up the last of the fumes driving into the station. My man and the attendant pushed the truck over to the pumps and we filled up. We also called ahead to the next station.