William A. Swintzer Park – 58.900279, -123.149354, British Columbia
April 22, 2019
Waking up on the side of the road should not feel so normal to me.
How wild it is to know I’ve been driving for over a week and I’m not on the Alaska-Canada Highway yet. Willingly, for a moment, I enter into a trance; I accept this daily driving routine as my new normal. That’s what humans do: adapt. We discover and writher into new habits and make them our own. It’s comforting to us.
My trance is broken when, not even fifteen minutes after the morning’s drive begins, a semi drops gravel in front of us and cracks the windshield.
Neither Ethan nor I had cracked a windshield before. We stop at a mechanic in Grand Prairie, Alberta to get it replaced, but when we tell him our story, he answers, “You’re on your way to Alaska. You know all the windshields are cracked up there, right? I wouldn’t get this fixed until you move back to the lower-48.”
We’re happy to drive with a little crack in the field of vision if it saves us $350 in repairs.
I was older than I should have been when I realized it was possible to drive to Alaska. The very idea of it always seemed to me one that only characters in books were brave (or stupid?) enough to do. After hundreds and hundreds of miles, it didn’t hit me until we got to Dawson Creek, British Columbia that I was driving to Alaska. The Great Alone. The Great Unknown. The Last Frontier. The Wild. The wild that called to us. It exists.
Entering The Alaska Highway made this lofty plan of ours tangible.
I was there. It is real.
My blood pressure rose as we were finally driving on The Highway. I’d read entire books and several blogs about how to make this drive safely, efficiently, and enjoyably. There’s a ridiculous amount of advice out there, from packing energizing snacks and extra water to packing spare sets of tires and gallons of emergency fuel.
I run on the riskier side of life and settled for bringing about two day’s worth of food and five gallons of water. We’d be relying heavily on the gas stations of the country to sustain our lives.
Fort Nelson, B.C. is a Real Town. There’s a pizza place, several small motels, a pub, an essentials-only grocery store, and even a tiny general hospital. We’d not gone 8 hours since our last Real Town, I’m not sure why it brought tears to my eyes to arrive here.
Often, I go more than one day without showering or prefer to improvise a cold, snack-like meal rather than one that’s hot and home-cooked. These objectives aren’t rare occurrences. I think it was just the buildup of weeks and weeks of planning and the listening to horror stories and the tearful calls from my Mamaw, who truly believed I would die on this trek, that had me worked up. It is just driving, after all. At the end of the day: it’s just driving.
I hadn’t expected the scenery to change so greatly or so often in Canada. Only yesterday we were in Banff: a vast, mountainous expanse of land that one could easily believe to go on and on until the earth ends. This morning, we’d driven into barren hillsides and bland, beige scenes of total nothingness. Our hometown, in the Midwest, is filled with nothingness and lackluster visuals of unchanging country roads and fields. We certainly didn’t depart on this supposed adventure of a lifetime to look upon such similar sights as what we left several thousand miles behind.
So, when we saw this view ahead, at the end of our day, we gazed with inaudible lust. The Promised Land.
We drive for another hour after dinner, until darkness hits. I’ll never know where we stopped to sleep this night. I’ve looked at maps since the trip ended, in an attempt to find the closest town to where we were, to no avail. Before falling asleep on April 22nd, though, I took a screenshot on Apple Maps. Here we are: a dot on a map. Floating around, somewhere on Earth.
Day 8 Mileage Total: 569
Liv – Authentically