Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alaskan Highway

Last week I finished finalizing my bicycle tour directions from home (Toledo, OH) to Leavenworth, WA. And let me tell you, at this point, I’m pretty sick of looking at roads in Google Maps. In fact, the realization that I will be sharing the same roads as thousands of vehicles on a rickety bicycle leaves me a little timid. When I’m done with my first leg I’ll probably be too afraid to drive again because I’ll after having become so acquainted with the fear of being struck by traffic. Although after months of recovery, I’ll probably be back on the road heading back towards the Atlantic Ocean.

the Alaskan Highway

Yet someday, whether it’s when I’m in Washington or down in Florida, I’d love to ride my bike to Alaska. And as far as I’m concerned there’s only one way to get there, via the Alaskan Highway. The highway is 1,390 miles (2,237 Km) long stretching from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska.

Proposals for the highway’s construction were given in the 1920s when an investor thought it would be beneficial to build a ‘super-road’ linking the United States, Canada, and Russia. Yet in order for the idea to take root, Canada, where the majority of the roadway would lie, would have to be very supportive of its construction; they were not. It wasn’t until the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the later Japanese invasion of Alaska, that the idea was approved by U.S. Congress and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Canada approved of the highway as long as it along with all roadside assets were turned over to the Canadians after the war.

Many bridges were simple, makeshift woodem designs
made by hand from the surrounding forests.

The majority of the highway’s construction was done by the U.S. Army. 11,000 soldiers along with 7,500 civilians were put to the task of building the shortest road to Alaska that, at the very least, could be used to transport military equipment. Two crews started from each end point and worked their way to the middle. It’s actually quite remarkable that the two teams met without global positioning satellites (GPS) been launched yet.

The most difficult setback in creating the road came not from subarctic temperatures, but from the Earth itself. In the summer, the ground underneath the quickly thinning permafrost was filling with water and becoming increasingly unstable. When this top layer was removed in order to lay the road the soil turned into quicksand, sucking bulldozers and other heavy machinery with it.

Did you know?- On September 24, 1942 crews from both directions met at Mile 588 at what became named Contact Creek.

This will be me someday…

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