Denise and I have driven the Alaskan highway many times in our lives. But today while driving southbound through Whitehorse we realized it was Denise’s 50th anniversary of her fist time driving up with her family.
In 1964 she was 11 and sat in the backseat of their 1964 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon behind her mom and dad. Also along for the ride was her brother, uncle and her dog Rusty. It was March and their many adventures are now legendary. March is considered late winter in the north and nighttime temps can easily plummet to -30.
Most notably while driving near the start of the Alcan the now infamous Good Friday 9.0 earthquake struck in Alaska. After selling all their possessions, house and having said goodbye to all friends and family in Texas her folks made the brave decision to continue the drive north.
They had felt the quake all the way down in British Columbia and the news on the radio reported Anchorage was in ruin, there were no utilities or houses for rent but her mom’s strong desire to live in the north country energized them all to continue…..the ultimate family road trip!
The Alaskan Hwy back in those days was all gravel and mud, about a lane and half lane wide, had very steep grades and descents, one lane wooden bridges and more then often it wash out with just a moderate cloud burst.
During the winter months when the road narrowed even further due to large snow berms along the sides when you encountered a semi truck going the opposite direction you had to drive into the ditch to make the pass. The truck driver would then stop, back up and pull you out. This was routine.
Our fist trip down together was in late Oct of 1974 in our 1958 vw van camper along with my brother and his wife in their 1963 vw van. There was lots of mud, cold nights and great fall colors. We were constantly shifting gears to climb and descend hills. We were all very young in those days and it was a grand adventure.
Today 40 years later we find ourselves again on the Alcan southbound and off to new adventures. Nowadays the road is like a dream compared to the 60’s and 70’s. The road is now wider, much straighter and far more level but unfortunately some of the mystery, the unknown and the sense of adventure are missing. There is now cell coverage in many places.
In this past week we have been closely monitoring the weather with the local wifi using the latest weather apps and have missed all the snow and icy driving conditions. We are currently comfortably camped in an Rv park in Fort Nelson at the southern end of the great road….another successful trip completed.
But with all that said…..it’s still a very long drive!