Why Alaska?

Last week, I announced that my next trip would be to drive up the Alcan, make a lap around Alaska, then drive back down the way I came. When I’ve mentioned the trip to people, I tend to get one of two reactions: “Are you crazy?” or “Can I come with you?” So far, the “Are you crazy?” is the leader, at about a 2-1 ratio.

So, I thought I’d take a shot at explaining why I am driving to the Last Frontier. In April. Before the ice breakup. In a 20 year old Subaru Outback.

The Silver Bullet and the Emerald Bullet, ready to roll

First, it’s the challenge. Unlike our Lap Around Americathere aren’t endless highways to take you wherever you want to go. The south-central part of Alaska is relatively easy to drive, with decent roads. From there, it gets a little trickier. If you don’t mind the cost, the Alaska Marine Highway System is a great way to get around the coastal waters. But, as I say, it’s spendy, especially if you want to bring your vehicle with you. Further north, into the bush, you run out of roads in a hurry.

A relative who has lived in Alaska off and on told me he thinks there really should be three Lap Around Alaska books – one for the roads, one for the bush, and one by cruise. He’s probably right, as I know before I start I won’t be able to get every where I would like on this trip. I’m limited by both time and budget. I have a new granddaughter arriving the end of May, and I’m not going to miss her arrival in the world.

Beyond the challenge of the trip, there is a personal reason. If you read my collection of short stories, Life is Shortyou would have read a story called My Matanuska Summer. It was a true story about the summer of 1976, when I gave up a nice, boring job painting apartments in Seward to try and grow marijuana in the Matanuska Valley. As you might guess, it did not go well, but decades later, it made for a good story, and that’s the important thing, right?

I spent all of three summers and part of a fourth in Alaska in the 1970s. When I think of my teen years, I think of two things: falling in love with Dawn Adele, and spending time in Alaska. Those years put Alaska deep in my soul, but I haven’t been back since 1978. Four decades is too long to be away from a place I love so much.

I’m in that odd place of both anticipating and dreading the trip. I can’t wait to see Alaska again, but since Dawn Adele is staying home this trip, I know I am going to miss her terribly. The last time I went to Alaska, the summer of ’78, I missed her so much I cut the trip short and flew back to her. I’ll probably feel like doing that several times on this trip, but we have cell phones and the internet to keep in touch now.

So off I go. I leave on Monday. I don’t expect to get to Alaska itself until sometime toward the end of the week, because I have a hunch this will be the only time I drive the Alcan highway, and I want to enjoy the drive. Expect lots of scenery pictures.

I will write a blog and post pictures every time I can find wifi. If you’d like to be alerted each time I publish a new entry, you can subscribe by hitting the button to the upper right.

On our lap around America last year, I had a great time chatting with you in the comments each night. I hope we’ll be able to do the same this time around.

Cheers, and safe travels!



    • Thanks, Jonathan. After reviewing the thousands of pics I took on the last trip, I thought, “I needed to take more pictures!” I think I’ll try and do just that this time around. 🙂


  1. I’m so excited for your upcoming trip — for both you and me!! I’m excited that you’re following your thoughts and dreams (and Alaska is awesome), and I’m excited that I get to experience your adventure through your delightfully alluring writing. Safe travels!


  2. Have fun! Be safe. We all will be with you on this trip. And we all want you back home in one piece. Looking forward to the blogs and pictures!


  3. Shawn, I couldn’t find where you sign up for notices. Enjoyed them so much last time. Help would be appreciated. Thanks. Can’t wait. Safe travels.


    • If you signed up for updates last trip, Judy, you should still be registered for this one. That may be why you don’t see the button – because you are already registered!


  4. I have a good friend from Seattle that just turned 73 and he drives it often as he has family up there. Hope you are blessed with travels as safe as his.


  5. It’s clear to me, at least. You need to smoke some bud when you’re in Alaska. Now, wait. Hear me out. Just think of the chapter(s) that could come from that. It’s legal up there, isn’t it?


    • It’s legal here, and I don’t smoke! I honestly don’t know if it is legal in Alaska or not. It was decriminalized in the 70s, but things are much freer when it comes to cannabis now.


      • I know you don’t smoke. What I’m advocating is just a one-time use in the interest of the art of memoir. Go to where you raised the pot up there and find a doobie. Put on the Doobie Brothers and get high. It would be hilarious.

        Liked by 1 person

    • One of my bar buddies, whom I also get high with every now and then and play music, says what most people call “reality” is just what they’ve settled for. Who’s to say? Maybe pot actually helps you experience things as they REALLY are. 🙂 And, yes, you have a weird brain. Join the club. Oh well, if you ever do decide to imbibe, let me know. I’d love to be in on it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Shawn, we have a 22 year old Subaru Legacy and it is amazing here in the western Pennsylvania winters. We will hang onto that gem as long as possible. Have a great trip, this time around you know that when you come home to Dawn, it is for keeps! Safe travels!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yessir. Leaving Seaview WA on Monday AM, then heading toward Dawson Creek. Probably won’t make it there until Tuesday, because I’m not necessarily going the straightest route. 🙂


  7. Have a safe journey and put your concerns on the back burner. I lived in a remote cabin in Northern Alaska for 20 years and have made the drive up and down the alcan 8 times to PA and TX with a 6 year old pickup and never had any problems. Just take your time and enjoy the adventure…. I will be ‘following’ right along with you.


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