Ever wanted to take a trip up to Alaska? I have! It sounds so “adventurous” and “breathtaking” with wildlife at every bend in the road. Now I have yet to take my family up to Alaska, but a good friend and cousin of mine headed up to the Great White North this past summer. I read Eileen’s account and enjoyed the adventure. With her permission I am sharing it with all of you.
Remember those old fashion Travelogues where you watched slides of other people’s adventures? Welcome to the first post of My Whit’s End’s Travelogues.
So my husband had a dream.
Ever see the movie Tangled?
Or at least pay attention to the songs while your girlies were watching it, dreaming of having mile long hair? I think my favorite part is when all the crazy goofy looking guys are singing about their dreams.
Well I have a crazy husband. I don’t think he is goofy looking though. However he is tall, and when we were dating many in my family would refer to him as the “tall guy”. He started out as “Nimrod the Mighty Hunter” but that was only because he claimed he was visiting our farm to “hunt deer” when in fact, my Dad was pretty sure he was more interested in the 2 legged variety of deer than the 4 legged. But my dad called him Nimrod the mighty hunter for a while, probably just to humor him. After the whole “coming to hunt” façade faded away he became the tall guy, which is fitting since he is 6’8”.
Back to this dream of his. He has threatened for years to go to Alaska. I thought he was totally nuts. Who on earth wants to go to Alaska, and isn’t the gold rush totally over?? He was going to hunt for gold. Not threatening in a bad way, like he was “taking off”, but just that he had this idea in his head and I guess he wanted me to realize he wasn’t joking, so he kept drilling it in my head. We would be sitting at the table some days and he would just randomly talk about how he would do this or that when he went to Alaska. Then he would be sitting at the computer, on Craigslist, and all of a sudden start giving me the stats on metal detectors…….which I know NOTHING about, and frankly didn’t care in the least, but I attempted to not be completely rude, and nodded along a bit.
I used to think this was just a dream of “escaping” life. I began to realize as these discussions went on over the years that this was a dream, not just a joke. So after a particularly rough last year, I thought, lets just go. Clearly he’s serious. I figured it was a good time to go. Our kids were a decent age to leave. Everyone is potty trained and we all eat the same way and sleep decent. We could use a break, and the Lord had blessed us this year, and I knew from being the bookkeeper, that we could probably afford a trip like this. So, being impulsive as I am, I called my mom and asked her about a specific 10 day window in August and asked if they would watch our kids if we decided to go to Alaska.
I originally thought maybe I would haul off and buy plane tickets and surprise him, but I ended up surprising him just with the fact that I had done a little research on this potential trip and I was actually quite serious about helping him fulfill his “dream”. I made that phone call to my mom the end of May and we did in fact go to Alaska early in August.
I am glad I didn’t just buy plane tickets though. As we did a little more thinking about things, my tall guy came up with an idea. Rather than rent a small car, and try to book hotels for all the nights we were planning to be there and plan a very specific itinerary so we can have all these hotels booked in advance….. lets rent an RV!!!!! He was SO pleased with this idea. I thought we should just paint “hillbilly travelers” on our shirts right now….. We did some checking and the more checking we did and the more thinking I did about it, I realized his idea was logistically intelligent. We could go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We wouldn’t be bound to a specific schedule. We could pull over and “camp” anywhere, this bit of info came from him and I am still puzzled as to where his foreknowledge of RV camping regulations in Alaska came from, but oh well. AND, renting an RV was less expensive than a mid-size car rental plus all the hotels. Not to mention the fact that if we hotel-ed it we would be packing and unpacking every day and we would be cramped into a small car, so our trip would probably be laced with some sort of complaining on the part of the tall guy that we “shouldn’t have been so cheap and should have rented a bigger car”.
Sometime the third week of July we finally coordinated booking the RV and plane tickets. Now we were really going. Oh boy, I wasn’t really sure I was ready for this!
We were talking about this trip with my Grandma before we left home and she said, “I don’t know why, but the word “adventure” comes to mind.” I told her that word had crossed my mind as well. We will see how it all turns out.
Grand Rapids Airport-Me and the Tall Guy
We start our journey around 1:45pm, Monday August 6th. Elaine and Kyle, mother and son, good friends and neighbors, came to our house with their van to bring us to the airport.
(Grandpa a little tired after watching the grandkids)
We loaded up our stuff and kissed Emma and Drew goodbye. Mary was in bed and we had already given her a good squeeze and a few kisses before she went down for her nap.
(This is Little Miss Mary.)
I was warm driving to the airport and probably a little nervous. I had jeans on, which I can’t remember the previous time I wore them in Michigan, and was feeling silly, but goodness, we were flying to Alaska. It was like frozen there all the time, right??? We arrive at the Grand Rapids airport and pulled our bags out of the van. While picking up one of the bags, I heard (and felt) and nice little pop. From then on I was living on ibuprofen. In case I forget to mention it, always assume I was taking ibuprofen. Round the clock. I don’t know what I did near my ribcage on the left side, but it was excruciating. I could hardly move through the airports. Any move I made, twisting, lifting, breathing, coughing, sneezing, bending, or simply putting an arm in the air was extremely painful. Note to self, it’s probably a good idea to NOT run out of ibuprofen. So I sat painfully by our gate, trying not to move until we boarded our plane. I will add, since I am editing this after our trip, it turned out I had whooping-cough. Coughing for about 6 weeks before we left for this trip was in part to blame for the extreme pain near my ribs. Yes, I was vaccinated, no, it’s not fun, and yes, I agree with the Chinese about the 100 day cough deal.
Our tickets did not have us sitting together and when my tall guy went to inquire about that, the airline attendant took care of it, but took a good look at my tall guy and said, “you can’t sit in a regular seat”, and promptly moved us to an exit row. That was very nice of her, and even though it was only an hour and a half flight to Minneapolis, we enjoyed the extra room. We only had about 45 minutes at the Minneapolis airport, and discovered that our arrival gate and departing gate were quite far from each other. We made it though, and had just enough time to grab some dinner from burger king before we boarded. Sadly we did not get an exit row on this flight and both of us were feeling quite cramped on the long flight.
Somehow in my head, Alaska is this remote place where hardly anybody lives. So I was surprised our flight was completely full of people headed to Anchorage. We waited forever at the gate because there was a passenger who was threatening to be sick or something, and after about 6 people had talked to him, including a lady they drug on the plane from inside the airport, he walked off. I think we departed about 45 minutes after our scheduled time. All the more sitting in a cramped space. Oh well. I watched a couple movies to pass the time and tall guy tried to doze on and off the whole way. Our pilot made up some time in our travels and even though we flew really high several times to go over storms, we arrived only about 15 minutes later than scheduled. I could barely move, but we walked toward baggage claim and I texted David, the son of a friend from home, who had kindly driven into Anchorage to pick us up, to let him know we had landed and were headed to baggage claim. Once we claimed our bags, we walked outside to find David. We found him easy enough parked just a short way down from the door we exited and we greeted like we’d known each other for years. Except I may have greeted him only half-hearted. I was bushed and in a ton of pain.
David grew up in Grand Rapids, and moved to California for schooling. There he married a great lady named Danelle. They had only been married a year or so, when they were bored and watching some documentary on Alaska on TV. They both expressed out loud that one day it would be cool to move there. Two years later they did. They have lived there for 17 years now, and love it.
David and Danelle’s House
We drove the 30-40 minutes to David and Danelle’s home in Eagle River and David shared some things about Alaska, and we chatted about what he does and where he goes for fun in Alaska, where he works etc. We didn’t spend much time chatting once we got to their house. It was well after one am at home and we were tired. Danelle was already in bed and so we all went to bed. We figured even though he leaves for work at 7am, that’s 11 our time so we would be up well before then and could visit a little. We slept well, on a comfortable bed, and it didn’t even matter that even with the blinds pulled it was fairly light in our room. We were much too tired to care.
We heard David and Danelle up fairly early, but we were pretty much ready to wake up. We were able to visit with both of them a bit and we chatted about bears and our travel plans. My tall guy-who I’m going to start calling Andrew-arranged to bring Danelle to work so we could use her car to drive around a little and get back into Anchorage to pick up our RV around 1. Then we would drive back to Eagle River, which was not out of the way since we were heading north anyway, and drop her car back off to her there.
Andrew walked through the door of their house after I had taken time to have a delightful hot shower and do a few other things. I was just making a bit of breakfast for us and he says, “want to see a bear? There is one just past the end of their driveway.” I figured I’d see too many bears anyway, so we didn’t jump back in the car to go see it.
We ate some breakfast, cleaned up after ourselves, packed our bags, (with David and Danelle’s somewhat anti-social Alaskan sled dogs glaring at us from their bedroom) and took off.
We headed the wrong way at first (on purpose) and went to the Eagle River nature center. We decided to go for a short hike. There is a loop you can walk there. I got out of the car with much trepidation, looking every which way for a bear. Now that Andrew had already seen one I figured they were everywhere. We went for a short hike, me looking over my shoulder every 3 seconds or so for bears, and making sure we carry on a nice loud conversation so the bears know we are there. The view was beautiful. We were in a valley, so we were looking up, but I took some pictures and after I did I realized I got a great reflection of the mountain in the water. It was gorgeous. We walked back and got in Danelle’s car, then headed towards Anchorage. Danelle had taken Andrew up a winding mountain road to a place where you can get a good view of Denali if it’s “out”. That’s the way people talk about the “big mountain” around here. If it’s “out” you can see it. Haha…it’s always “out”, it’s just a matter of the weather, whether or not you can see it…. Denali was not “out” Tuesday, but there was a nice view of Eagle River, and we could see Anchorage too, as it was about 15 miles away or so.
Eagle River Nature Center
View from up above Eagle River, where you can see the Denali, if it’s “out” :).
We stopped at the Wal-Mart in Eagle River and grabbed a snack, then headed into Anchorage. Our first stop was Alaska Mining and Diving. Andrew had called a guy from that shop a few weeks ago before we bought the long sought after metal detector we brought with us. We purchased a few things and talked with the nice guy at the counter for a while about looking for gold and fishing. The way he talked, it would be easy to find several ounces of gold. Yippie, we were going to at least pay for our trip here, it seemed.
Our luxury home for the next week. 🙂 The Jamboree.
Next we went on to Clippership RV rental and figured even though we were a little early, maybe we could at least do the paperwork and stuff. We got the thing paid for and went for our “tour”. There wasn’t anything particularly glamorous about our RV, as will see from the pictures. It was one of their older models, and has quite a few miles on it, but that was partly our fault for making last minute travel plans. It was the only one they had left in either of the sizes we were considering, and they have about 80 RVs. It smelled interesting too, but that was ok. The bed looked quite small, but I guess we’d figure that out later.
I left a little ahead of Andrew, as he was finishing his “orientation” and waiting for the keys to be handed to him, and got us some lunch at Quiznos. We weren’t super hungry, so I willingly went with Andrew’s suggestion that we share a sub. However I was slightly offended by the dude in front of me (who was being very, very picky I might add) because he looked at my sub and said, “wow, you must be hungry”!!! Good grief! I was SHARING!!
Oh well. I got out of Quiznos and called Andrew to see where he was. He was at a gas station almost across the street with a camper that was empty. I told him that wasn’t cool and he’d better call Clippership because these things are supposed to come back FULL. I doubted they’d believe us a week from now when we dropped the thing off and said, “oh, by the way, it was empty when we got it, so we are returning it that way.” He called and ended up having to go all the way back to Clippership to pick someone up who would go with him to the gas station and fill the crazy thing up with fuel. Great start to the trip.
I drove on ahead to Eagle River where David works. Danelle has been working with him for the summer, so she was there too and that is where we were supposed to drop her car off. I chatted with David and his kind receptionist for a few minutes and we even visited Danelle, who was getting her teeth cleaned at the office a couple doors down from the David’s. Andrew finally made it back and with a quick stop at the bathroom we went on our way.
to be continued. . .
So they are off They kissed the kids good-bye and they have landed on real Alaska soil. Will The Tall Guy find his gold??? The Alaska Adventure continues with Eileen being sure that there is a bear at every corner, and with The Tall Guy trying to fit his 6’8″ stature into an RV bed for some shut-eye.
Thanks so much for reading,