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On the road. Again.

24 Jan

[On the road.  Again.]  Mabel and I arrived back in Austin early this afternoon after many fun and relaxing days in Wisconsin.  It was great to see family, celebrate a wedding with dear friends, and relax in Mom’s new house.  It was good.

From here, it’s a mess of unpacking, laundry, and repacking as I now prep for the second leg of this vacation – Montana.  I drop Mabel off at the kennel at 5 and then Paige & I are bound for the cities.  Our train leaves the St.Paul station tonight at 11:15.  We should arrive in Havre, MT shortly after lunch tomorrow.

Turns out packing is hard.  Trying to figure out what comes with me, what gets stowed below is tough this time.  My dining room floor is currently the middle of the game what-to-pack-and-where-to-pack-it.  I’ll figure it out.  Eventually.  Likely leaving something rather important behind.  But so it goes.

We’re in Montana thru next Wednesday when we hop on the train to return home. It will be a great couple of days spent with Joel, Melissa, and their baby girls.  The last time I was in Montana visiting them was on my way to Alaska two summers ago.  They were my place to rest the second night into my trip.  It was fun to stop and see them then; I have no doubt it will be even more fun this time around, especially with a Paige, a Hannah, and a Harper happily in the mix this time!

[AAA] betty and i.

28 Aug
Oh, the things Betty and I saw while driving to Alaska.  Here is from western Alberta onward …
[the idea didn’t occur to me until then.  for dumb.]

[AAA] I’m a pastor.

26 Aug
I’ve already begun to get mail addressed to “Pastor Lindsay.”  Sometimes the envelopes also read “The Rev. Lindsay.”  [I don’t like those envelopes.  Far too formal for this girl.]  I’m a pastor.  whoa.  I had this realization while in Canada on the drive.  I’ve meant to share this story with you for a long while but craziness has ensued since returning to the lower 48.  
I arrived in Prince George and was ready to find a hotel for the evening.  At my second stop in the decent-sized town, hoping to find a room for less than $100 [a difficult task in Canada it seems], I met a super helpful clerk at the front desk of the Ramada.  I told him I was looking for a room and wondered how much it would cost.

Is this trip business or leisure?
Uh … leisure?
What company do you work for?
[silence with a likely dumb stare]
I’m trying to find the best deal for you.  Maybe your company will offer a discount.
I’m a pastor … [sarcastic laugh]
Oh.  Okay.

My first reaction was to laugh.  A discount?  I’m pretty sure not.  There are many perks to being a pastor [senior rates at the YMCA in Austin!] but I’m going to guess discounts at hotels in Canada is not one of them.  [Or at least not that I’ve ever heard.]  I thought to myself, yeah right.  I don’t think so.  
My second thought, as I walked away in search of a cheaper room, was to walk with a bit of a spring in my step [a la Professor Lose].  I’m a pastor.  How super cool awesome is that?  I’m a pastor!  It felt great to say it aloud, to own it, and to know that after much schooling and work, I’ve reached the profession – the call – that I am so excited to have.  I’m a pastor.  [huge grin]

[ps.  curious to see more photos from the AAA?  you should be able to click this link to access my facebook album of the adventure.]

[AAA] The end.*

20 Aug
5.5 hours in a car to Anchorage
5 hours on a flight from Anchorage to Long Beach, CA
[enter five hour layover due to a delay – this is where I am now]
5 hours on a flight from CA to O’Hare
2 hours on a bus from Chicago to Janesville
15 minutes in a car to home

Add that all up and it’s still a shorter way home than my way to Alaska!  That’s what I told the woman who checked me in when she said, You’ve got a long day ahead of you.  Yup.
Ben, Kim, and I headed to Anchorage around 5pm last night and, upon arrival, ate a late dinner of pizza at the Moose’s Tooth.  [dee-licious spicy thai chicken pizza]  Speaking of a moose, I saw one!  Finally.  On the drive to the city, a moose and a baby crossed the road in front of the car ahead of us.  I didn’t get a great view and – like the bear – it all happened too fast to photograph, but I feel comfortable leaving Alaska now that I actually saw a moose for real.  Not stuffed.  For real.
From dinner, they dropped me off at the airport and while I went through security and checked my bag, they headed off to where they are staying for the weekend.  [long story short – with a cousin of ours’ girlfriend/they’re running a marathon on Sunday in Anchorage so hanging out and going to Home Depot until then]  Bye Ben.  Bye Kim.  It’s been fun.
Now let begin the marathon of getting home.  I was able to sleep for most of the first flight, which departed at 1:10am Alaska time.  I’m charging my computer and my phone as we speak, having scored an outlet in the tiny Long Beach Airport.  [Why in the world did I fly to Long Beach?  Good question.  All I know is that it was the cheapest flight I could find.  I might end up paying the price difference in mind and body.]  May the Mac gods and their minions keep me entertained and sane until arrival at home.

* while chronicling the end of the actual trip, a few more [AAA] stories will continue to be shared.  they are many.  the [AAA] label has not been retired.  yet.

[AAA] Here’s Ben.

19 Aug
Meet Ben.  He’s my younger brother.  In case you forget his name, it’s on his shirt.

 Ben moved to Alaska three months ago to take a job as an electrician at the community college in Valdez.  His job as an electrician with a company in Wisconsin had been slow in the recent year and he was perhaps up for a little adventure.  He packed up his camper and drove to Valdez in four days [yeah.  four days.  it took me seven.] with his kayak, three different bicycles, and mounted buck head.  Oh, and Jetta, the dog.
I think he kinda loves it here.   He likes his job and his coworkers think he’s the bee’s knees.  One of his coworkers, Chris, talked to me while we all hung out on Wednesday night.  So you think he’s going to stick around for awhile?  I think so, I said.  We don’t want him to go.  We love him here.  Ben’s been doing a lot of cleaning house at the college, cleaning up previous messes and tidying up cords with the electrical.  Apparently he got mad props during the inservice held for staff this past week because of the great work he’s been up to.  They love the work he’s doing and he loves it too.  He showed me the projector he just installed.  He said it was fun.  [silly boy.]

He rents a room in a cabin outside of town.  As he explained it to me, it’s like our family’s cabin in Black River Falls but with plumbing and electricity.  That it is.  He built in a bunk for his rented room.  There’s awesome wallpaper too.  I couldn’t live like this day in and day out but for him, it works.  He doesn’t need stuff to be happy.  [Maybe that’s why he only has one bath towel?  I know what I’ll be mailing him when I get home.]

When I graduated from seminary, Ben sent me a card.  It was signed “from Ben and Jetta” and it said “proud of you” in his boyish printing.  From Ben, that’s a lot.  I’m proud of him too.  It was quite a leap to pack up and move to Alaska but I think he’s found a place where his passions are put into practice each day.  His passions and his gifts are seen in each day he re-wires a classroom or kayaks into the sound or fishes for salmon.  He seems happy here and that, my friends, is a good thing.  I’m glad I was able to visit and see what he’s been up to.  [AAA] success.

[AAA] Rain, ice, and bergs.

19 Aug
When I left you last, I met up with Ben following his work at Prince William Sound Community College [he’s the electrician on staff and they love him] and we went over to his co-worker’s house.  They were having a bunch of people over for dinner and board games [my kind of people] and they were a ton of fun.  The staff at the college [or at least those there] are super young and funny and awesome and the salmon was delicious.  We journeyed ten miles out of town to Ben’s “house” [I use that term lightly.] and settled in for the night.  
The next day was wide open for me, as Ben headed off to work.  I met Kim, Ben’s girlfriend, for breakfast and then I wandered the town [there’s not a whole lot to it], thankful Ben had lent me a rain jacket.  [Kim: You didn’t bring any rain gear?  Me: I don’t own rain gear!]  I went to one of the local museums and there saw the one and only moose of the trip.  It was stuffed.  The museum is part of the college that Ben works for and he gave me a tour of the campus.  From there, I said screw it to all my hesitation about the rest of the day’s plans – I got on a boat.
A glacier cruise to be exact.  It wasn’t an entirely clear day out and the waters were a little choppy.  I’m not one for too much water adventure – I recall getting sick on a boat ferry when I was younger.  I couldn’t decide if it was worth the money to get on a boat and potentially get sick and be miserable for the six hour trip.  But I said screw it.  I’m in Alaska and I’m going to go.  And it was pretty worth it.

Let’s talk about how darn cute sea otters are!

Valdez is essentially surrounded by mountains.
holy bright blue.
We rounded the day out with Mexican food, a movie, and strawberry shortcake before calling it a night.  It’s been a ton of fun visiting Ben and seeing this place he now calls home.  More about that follow.

[AAA] Arrival.

17 Aug
I drive all the way to Alaska and don’t see one moose.  [“I have your car towed all the way to your house and all you have for me is light beer?”  Name that movie and ten fictitious points could be yours.]  My wildlife viewing [other than the typical cattle, horses, etc.] ended with one bear, a few mountain goats and a couple deer.  Moose mourning aside, I arrived!  I’m in the Valdez public library, waiting for Ben to get done with work for the day.  [We’re three hours behind you folks in the central time zone.]  It’s rainy and I figure I have all day tomorrow to explore the town; right now I’m thrilled to simply not be in the car.
I drove to Alaska.  It’s nearly exhilarating and bit unbelievable to think – I drove to Alaska.  I can do anything!  [That’s how the saying goes, right?  If you can drive to Alaska, you can do anything?]  That’s how I feel anyways.  It was a smooth trip, I did it by myself, and I feel proud that I pushed fear aside and tackled this adventure.  I never considered myself one for adventure but this – this was good.  Very good for me.  [And I’m beginning to think I’m more adventurous than I ever thought I was …]
I slept in this morning and got ready in the room I rented that was originally designed with hobbits in mind.  Loaded up Betty and then we set off.  I stopped a few times – for fuel, to snap photos, to make a pb&j, and to wait for the pilot car.  Lots of construction slowed me down today.  So much that in the line of people waiting for the pilot car to guide us, engines were turned off and people milled about, knowing it would be a bit of a wait.  Gravel roads and lots of rollercoaster-like dips in the roads from frost heaving was all a part of today’s journey.

It’s an icky picture, but I promise its the Worthington glacier. 
 As I neared Prince William Sound and Valdez, there was also a glacier.  and a canyon.  and mountains.  and lots of fog.  and rivers.  and waterfalls from the rocks.  Highway Four is not a road I would want to drive in the winter.  Like the descriptions of my other days of driving, it was just crazy.  I’d take a corner in the road and then find myself with some new natural wonder in front of me.  I literally said to myself, “You’re kidding me!” more than once as these awesome things appeared.  I’d seen mountains and glaciers in my drive previously but what I hadn’t yet seen – nor did I expect – was a winding road cut through a canyon with water falling from the rocks high above the highway.  Crazy.  Simply crazy.

I’m happy to not have a full day of driving ahead of me tomorrow.  I, in fact, am not sure at all what I will do tomorrow and the next day.  I’ll see what Ben and his girlfriend, Kim, [who is also living in Valdez right now] have to suggest.  I’d like to think I’d be perfectly content just hanging out with Jetta at Ben’s cabin too, relaxing and doing those things I brought that I still haven’t touched [and totally didn’t touch last night either, after I said I would].  Two days in Valdez, a ride to Anchorage [with Ben and Kim who are running a marathon there on Sunday], and a red-eye flight out of Alaska on Friday night/Saturday morning.  That’s what’s left of the August Alaskan Adventure.  Stay tuned.

[AAA] Almost and a surprise.

17 Aug
I just checked into a hotel in Beaver Creek in the Yukon Territory.  Beaver Creek is a few miles short of the Alaska border which means only six and a half hours of driving tomorrow.  I felt up to putting in a few extra hours on the road tonight [I’ll explain below.] before I checked into a hotel.  Before I checked into my closet.  Seriously.  It’s the tiniest room you could ever fit two twin beds into – smaller than a dorm room.  There is a bathroom for tiny people – everything seems to be in miniature.  The hotel, in general, makes me feel far more comfortable than the sketchy dive I stayed in last night despite that it was built for leprechauns.  Much more comfortable.
I set off extra early this morning [wanting to leave the sketchiness behind me] and did more mountain driving.  It was rainy and cloudy and lent more fog to the mountains and lakes as I drove on.  In my current tired state and the 55 hours of driving behind me, the rest of the day is running together.  I can’t remember if I drove through any cute towns or saw anything out of the ordinary.  [If I can’t remember, I’m guess not.  Still no moose!]  I do recall pulling into a rest area and refusing to go to the bathroom in the pit toilets that make the outhouse at our cabin seem like a throne.  It was mostly overcast through the morning and early afternoon, leading me to yawn and grow sick of driving.
This was the first time in the last week that I’ve really felt tired of driving.  In the days prior, the scenery was new and different and kept my attention.  Today, the scenery seemed old hat.  I’ll give this the fictional diagnosis of safari syndrome.  I remember while on safari in Tanzania a few years ago we grew so excited at the sight of new animals from our land rover.  But then, even though we were a part of this incredible experience in Africa, elephants almost grew to be … eh.  No big deal.  Elephants were everywhere.  It was the new animals – the lions, the cheetahs, and the ostriches that we then got excited about.  Elephants?  Eh.  Been there, done that.
That happened to me today.  The same mountain range?  Eh.  Awesome dense forests?  No big deal.  Winding roads through incredible landscape?  Been there.  I got the safari syndrome and just grew tired. Until these babies came out of nowhere –
It seemed I suddenly turned a corner and there were these huge, snow-capped mountains looming in front of me.  I found energy, excitement, and wanted to drive closer to find a better angle for a picture.  I found my new animal.  I was going to stop in Haines Junction for the night, which rests at the feet of these mountains [the icerange – the highest mountains in canada] but found no vacancies.  Driving along the mountains gave me the extra energy to travel another three hours [making it a 14.5 hour drive today] to Beaver Creek.  
But then there weren’t only these mountains but then this lake which the road wound around.  Too much beauty.  Too many perfect pictures I couldn’t take for lack of a road shoulder.  Too much.
There will be more photos, stories, and other surprises to come, my blog friends.  But now I must make myself a pb&j for a very late dinner and settle into my closet.  [I’m in the lobby right now to use the internet; once I go to my closet, I’m in the interweb darkness.  Time to read, craft, or write – the other projects I brought along with me but haven’t touched.]  I may find myself with more time in the next few days to update and educate you to the journeys and thoughts of this gnomepreacher.  More time when I arrive at my brother’s and can see my Jetta [the dog] and not drive for half a day.  Joy.

[AAA] Unexpected.

15 Aug
I’m not sure entirely what I expected.  As I read through today’s route in the Milepost, it didn’t say anything about more mountains and crazy corners.  I really feel like I read something about it being an easy highway to travel [Hwy 37 north to the Alaska Hwy] with stretches of straight road.  I was a silly midwestern girl to think it would be flat and easy.
More mountains, steep climbs and descents, close corners, and bridges over rivers and creeks named “Devil” and “Old Man.”  [Metal grated and wooden bridges to top it off.]  Around hour ten, the roads deemed center and side lines unnecessary, along with guardrails at many places.  At hour eleven and a half, throw in some gravel stretches and consistent warning signs about livestock and wildlife.  Livestock?  I was in the middle of mountain and forests.  As for wildlife, I saw giant piles of – what should I say? – poo on the road but no large animals to go with it.  The elusive moose still escapes my sight!
I did see a bear!  A fuzzy wuzzy black bear crossed my path right before I turned onto Hwy 37 [so during the easy part of the drive].  I slowed down and watched it walk slowly in front of me.  It was only one, and once off the road, the bear creeped down into the bushes and trees and out of my sight.  I stole no picture – it all happened too fast.  The bear was the reason I only captured crappy photos for the rest of the day – I wasn’t about to get out of my car to snap the perfect shot when I knew there were bears wandering around!  [Paranoid?  Yes.  But reasons for not stopping were also related to drive time and simply that there often were no good places to stop.  Not much of a shoulder to pull onto up in the mountains.]
It was another one of those drives where I simply have no words.  No photo could capture it, though I tried to take mental pictures to save for later.  [Alec Baldwin’s character in Friends also did that.  *click*]  It was [cliche alert!  cliche alert!] breathtaking.  The trees stand so tall on either side of the road; these mountains are different than the rocky [Canadian Rockies] from yesterday.  These mountains are forests – intense, deep forests. It was overcast and rainy nearly all afternoon, casting fog and an eerie cover in front of the mountains.  Photos can’t do it justice.
So I took a video.  [which I’m sure doesn’t do it complete justice either]  No worries about me driving while doing this.  I literally held my phone on top of the steering wheel and kept it there.  [I feel like I need to make sure you understand I was safe about it.  I didn’t watch it; just held it there while also holding the steering wheel.]  By watching a bit or all of the video, perhaps you can pretend like you were my passenger and listening to Mat Kearney with me.  And singing songs about mountain goats and wishing the logging trucks would not drive so fast.  
… but now I can’t get the video to upload right now.  I blame the – um – quaint hotel I’m in at Dease Lake.  [I’ll just say that my room is a “kitchenette” in a hotel geared obviously towards people working temporarily in the area.  I rolled out my sleeping bag on the bed and brought in my own pillow.  The truck outside my window keeps honking, and I have a key key to open my room.] But now I’m tired.  Tired, tired.  Two more twelve hour days of driving and I will arrive in Valdez – I’m stoked.  For now, this picture will have to do.  Goodnight, friends.


14 Aug
I stay the night in Prince George, a town in the province of British Columbia.
British Columbia: the best place on earth.
That’s what the sign said when I drove out of Alberta and into the new province.  The best place on earth.  
So, while in the best place on earth, I sit in my slightly-sketchy hotel room [the hallways remind me of the hotel in The Shining], blog [at least I have internet], and watch Bridget Jones’ Diary.  The Starbucks at the hotel I initially stopped at [the rooms were too expensive but with a cute and very helpful desk clerk] was closed [by 7pm] and whenever the people above me turn on their water, it makes a high-pitched noise from the ceiling of my bathroom.  I made phone calls to my credit card companies because my recent charges in Canada were deemed “fraudulent.” I just ate a pb&j [the same thing I had for lunch] with a fruit cup and trail mix.  I think I might stay awake for another half hour reading about tomorrow’s drive and then go to bed.  best. place. on. earth.
[I mean, really, British Columbia?  How can you even say that?  You’re pretty.  For sure.  But best place on earth?  That’s just setting people up for disappointment.  We’ll see how the British Columbia of tomorrow suits me.]  
This is in Alberta.  [Another Lake Louise photo because it’s just too darn pretty.]
[I’m not really in a bad mood or mad at BC.  The trip is still going well and I’m beginning to get excited to arrive in Alaska.  I’m just saying that having a slogan which tells people your place is the best in the world is a bit extreme and subjective.]
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