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 America, there 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 Short, you 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!