I’d been living in Anchorage, Alaska, for about nine years when I started getting homesick. Spending a dozen or more hours flying and waiting in airports once a year to visit my family for a week or two was just not cutting it anymore.
And I knew when I left Alaska for good, I would make the trip by car. It was something I had to do or kick myself the rest of my life for NOT doing it! I let another four years slip by. I was finally ready to leave in the fall of 2012.
I felt brave at the thought of making the trip, but I wanted some company. Someone else should share this adventure with me, so I asked my aunt if she’d like to. I knew she’d be up for the adventure since she’s lived and traveled all over the world. She flew up to Anchorage to begin the journey. She was an excellent navigator on our trip.
My cousin chose our route—it would be more interesting than what I mapped. I spent every evening pouring over maps and travel books, and I talked to folks who made the trip. “Gas up every chance you get,” I was told. “Go before the snow falls.” “Don’t drive too fast on the Alaska Highway—pot holes and frost heaves.” “Watch for wildlife on the road.”
Since we were traveling during the “off” season, I worried about finding open hotels and gas stations in the more remote areas of Alaska and Yukon Territory and British Columbia, Canada. I worried for nothing.
Driving from Anchorage, Alaska, to Dawson Creek, British Columbia, was the easiest part of our trip. Yes, the road was sketchy in a few places, but we were fine. Once you get to Tok, Alaska, you take a right onto the Alaska Highway and just follow along until you get to Dawson Creek, Milepost 0 on the Alaska Highway. After that, you have to pay attention so you won’t miss your turns.
We spent seven days driving through Canada. My daughter asked, “Are you STILL in Canada?” I said, “Have you looked at a map of Canada lately? It’s huge!”
We reentered the U.S. in Montana, spent the night in Butte, and headed to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Next was Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial outside of Rapid City, South Dakota. We drove down the border of Iowa and Nebraska, across Missouri, and down through Illinois. We clipped the western end of Kentucky, and headed across Tennessee over to western North Carolina to visit my daughter. We hit the northwestern edge of South Carolina, and finally headed south through Georgia.
We stayed in a different town each night. Some days I drove more hours than I’d planned, because we took in some extra sights. I spent the evenings making hotel reservations for the next two nights and looking over the maps for the next day’s drive. The scenery was breathtaking! Every state and province has its own beauties!
I had such a sense of accomplishment when we arrived in my hometown. I couldn’t believe we did it! It took 15 days and 5,577 miles. We missed a turn here and there, but we got back on course. That’s what life is like. And those missed turns can be adventures themselves. Like my mom would say after traveling with my dad who wouldn’t stop to ask for directions: “We weren’t lost. We had an adventure.”
I chronicled our adventure on my genealogy blog: