International Writers Magazine:Planning Road Trips
to Alaska (Part One)
were something I always needed in my life even when I was young,
young as in my twenties. I had short range goals and long range
goals. I had three long range goals back then, traveling to New
Zealand and Australia, writing a novel, and driving up the Alaskan
Highway from the USA to Alaska.
I started my first
novel and completed it (not published as yet) working on a second novel,
took thirty days to see New Zealand and Australia all in this millennium.
Well I had one more long range goal to accomplish from my younger days
or about 40 years ago.
When I turn
65 the idea of taking the Alaskan Highway trip would make a great birthday
present to me. I called an old Air Force buddy, Tom Bailey who Ive
only seen twice in 43 years, but stayed in contact with and asked him
about driving the Alaska Highway. Tom has lived in Alaska for over forty
years. He informed me to bring a motor home up and fly home. He ripped
several pages out of an old Anchorage yellow page directory and sent
them to me in Arizona via snail mail.
called the first two RV rental companies in Anchorage and the second
one, Clipper Ship RV Rental loaded my name, phone number, and address
in their computer and all I had to do was send them a check for $500.00
for a security deposit and I would be scheduled to drive a 27 foot motor
home to Alaska from South Bend, Indiana in May. Needless to say I was
as excited as a golfer that just made a hole-in-one. The only difference,
I didnt have to buy drinks at the clubhouse.
a single man I called several male buddies to see if they wanted to
make the trip and share the expenses. I have nothing against females
in fact I really like them, but I guess I just wanted this to be a guy
thing. I had several excuses from my calls; a wife at home, kids going
to college, too old to make the trip, and one guy was a rabbit breeder
and he had to be home. What the hell did he do watch them. After a couple
weeks I called two old US Air Force buddies both from Maryland. Jim
Jarmon told me in five seconds he would go no problem. He was married
and made the decision without asking his wife. Now that guy has brass
balls or no brains. Well Jims wife, the sweetheart she is let
him go without a fuss. Mike Sacrey on the other hand asked his wife,
received permission and sent me a check for part of the $500.00 deposit
within a week.
several phone calls to Anchorage and asking hundreds of questions
I figured I was prepared to make the trip now all I had to do was wait.
I bought an Alaska Highway guide, The Mile Post. Dont make the
trip without it. The Mile Post gives all the RV parks information along
with restaurants, gas stations, places of interest, plus maps with mileage
from one city to another. You also get history of each city and also
land marks along the way.
Saturday May 12th the following year I flew from the Phoenix, Arizona
to Indianapolis, Indiana. A good friend and former employee of mine,
Thor Hodges met me at the Indianapolis Airport along with his two sons.
Thor is in his late thirties. It was my 65th birthday and we were going
out to dinner. Thor is a policeman for Columbia City, Indiana located
in northeastern Indiana. Thor is also the head wrestling coach for the
a nice meal at a sports bar, we checked into the Radisson Hotel which
was walking distance from the airport. Jim Jarmon and Mike Sacrey would
be flying into Indianapolis the next morning from Baltimore, Maryland.
Thor would drive us to South Bend, Indiana in his Suburban to pickup
our RV and head North To Alaska.
was glad Thor had the Suburban because the three of us Alaska bound
old timers had more than enough luggage to spend the whole summer up
in the North Country. Winter clothes consume a lot of space in your
suitcase. Yes, it is cold in Alaska in May. With a stop for lunch
at one of our countries high cholesterol fast food places we made the
trip in two and half hours.
arrived in South Bend around 1400 at a private residence where we picked
up the RV. The residence owner, Barney picked up the RV at Coachman
Motor Homes in Nappanee, Indiana less than thirty-five miles from his
house. He had all the paper work, and a motor home was all furnished
with blankets, dishes, linens, pots and pans and other cooking utensils.
The only problem there wasnt any 27 foot motor home to be found.
A twenty four foot RV was sitting in the driveway. The reason as Barney
explained to us, the plant ran out of parts on the 27 foot and they
wouldnt have it ready until Tuesday. We could wait or take the
24 foot. The three of us looked at each other for ten seconds and the
decision was made. We were taking a 24 foot RV today. Over the
past ten years Barney had driven motor homes to Alaska many times for
Clipper Ship Motor Homes.
getting a very quick orientation from Barney and his wife we boarded
the RV even though we were short three feet. We departed South Bend
city limits at 1500. I mapped the whole trip out months before and sent
itineraries to Mike and Jim giving them dates and places we would camp
for the night. I asked them for their approval. No changes were made
until this day.
itinerary had us staying in South Bend for the night at a hotel to have
a comfortable sleep, having a nice dinner, going to Wal-Mart and loading
the RV down with food, cleaning supplies, toilet articles, and then
getting liquor from a liquor store. We would get up at the crack of
dawn the next morning and head for parts none of us had seen before.
It never happened. We boogied on into Michigan without stopping just
like most guys would do on a trip like this.
had been driving since we left Barneys and we were one-hundred
miles north of South Bend cruising down interstate highway 31 toward
Grand Rapids, Michigan when I said, maybe we ought to find a camping
site. The other two agreed and we saw a RV park by a small lake
seventy-five miles later. The exit took us to Big Rapids, Michigan a
small town adjacent to the interstate.
decided to fuel up our home away from home. I pumped the gas while the
other two guys went inside to use the facilities and check to see if
they could buy liquor on Sunday. They were informed by the clerk
that Michigan sells liquor on Sundays and Wal-Mart has liquor. They
got directions and off we went.
next stop, you guessed it, a Super Wal-Mart a few miles east of the
gas station. I parked the RV and the Jim and Mike headed for the liquor
department in Wal-Mart. I was checking the road atlas in the RV when
a local police car drove up and parked right in front of the RV. He
got out of his patrol car; right hand fixed on his Smith and Wesson
45 and walked slowly over to my window. You purchase gas at the
Texaco station back by the interstate. His hand still fixed on
sir. I said looking at the cops 45.
never paid for it.
I thought they paid for it, their in Wal-Mart buying some things for
our trip. Seconds later Mike and Jim have their arms full
of liquor walking towards the RV.
cop checked our vehicle registration and temporary tag on the left side
window. He asked me for my drivers license and when he saw Arizona
on the license he looked at me and said, If youre heading
to Alaska what are doing in Michigan?
spoke up with his sharp eastern accent, We heard they had free
gas here. Mike spread a large grin as he spoke. Jim and I stared
cop never smiled, but looked somewhat puzzled and agreed to let us go
provided we headed back to the Texaco to pay our bill. The cop followed
us and went inside with Mike while he paid the bill.
drove to the RV Park and selected a spot from only three spots that
were left. We paid the owner and then headed back to Wal-Mart to buy
some groceries after we drank a bottle of wine and laughed about our
experience in Big Rapids, Michigan.
groceries was a real treat. Mike and Jim havent ever shopped or
cooked. Two things I failed to asked them months ago. Their wives
do it all. Including dishes, and cleaning up. Since I would be doing
all the cooking I bought what I wanted and knew how to fix. After giving
Wal-Mart over two hundred-fifty dollars not counting the booze we bought
earlier we pushed two full grocery carts to our RV. All expenses on
this trip will be split three ways. Jim was elected the bookkeeper.
Mike a former FAA officer and a pilot was selected as our navigator.
sat down to our first meal eating hamburgers, along with potato salad,
baked beans from Wal-Marts deli and a couple of Miller Lites a
piece. The time after I washed the dishes cleaned up the kitchen and
put the dishes away was 9:45. We put on two-hundred nineteen miles today
and were ahead of schedule by that much.
I decided to take the large bed in the back since I planned the trip
and the oldest not to mention cooks need their sleep. Mike opted
for the bunk above the cab and Jim the largest of the three had to make
up his bed everyday. He slept where the dinette normally sits.
It was a couple hours later; I was asleep and Mike was snoring extremely
loud when Jims bed collapsed dropping his two hundred ten pound,
six foot two inch frame twenty two inches to the floor. After several
vulgar words from Jim and me raising myself up to see what all the commotion
was about. Mikes snoring seemed to increase every minute. After
several more grumbles from Jim, we managed to get back to sleep.
I became rattled again by Jims bed slamming to the floor.
The time on my alarm clock read 03.47 using one eye to see the illuminated
clock. Mike was still snoring. More vulgar language came out of Jims
mouth. You can bet your x*(#@x Uncles farm I will have this fixed
by tomorrow night. I laughed. More obscene words flew from
Jims mouth as he scrambled to put his bed back together.
Jim is a very skilled carpenter by trade and makes his living at it.
One hour later the alarm sounded.
Part Two: Mackinac Bridge, Upper Peninsula of Michigan and into Wisconsin.
Black - December 2008
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