Road Trippin’ 2015: Interior Designs

We set off on our journey through Alaska’s interior on Sunday morning. Armed with a cooler of provisions and a hand-drawn map—courtesy of LaVon—showing all the gas, food, lodging, and natural wonders to be found along the route, we left Anchorage with the goal of arriving alive and well in Fairbanks by supper time. I don’t like to give away an ending, but the fact that you are reading this is a strong indication that we succeeded.

The weather wasn’t great and Denali tends to play coy with tourists even on a sunny day, so we had no expectation of seeing the fickle feature formerly known as Mount McKinley. Nevertheless, we opted to delay the decision as to whether to get up close and personal with the peak until such time as we had to choose between hanging a left toward the national park, or continuing north on Hwy 3.

When that moment arrived and the sight was still not to be seen, we opted to further delay the decision on which direction to go by stopping to use the bathroom and checking out the string of shops lining the road near the intersection. Since this wasn’t our first rodeo, we knew better than to expect a bargain. We just wanted to pass some time, and maybe find something we hadn’t seen before.

Among the coolest things to be found at this particular oasis of overpriced objects was a shop selling hand carved wooden tables, lamps, clocks, and other home furnishings. Although each and every item in the place was absolutely beautiful and unique, we couldn’t picture them fitting in anywhere other than a millionaire’s mansion—which seems appropriate since I doubt anyone but a millionaire could afford them.

Everything else we saw was run-of-the-mill type stuff—hats, tee-shirts, and sweatshirts bearing images of bears, wolves, and moose—all of which would have made great souvenirs had they not also borne labels featuring the phrase “Made in China.” Nothing against China, but if I’m going to bring someone a souvenir from my trip to Alaska, it’s should at least have been MADE in Alaska.

With the sky no clearer and Denali still not showing its face by the time we finished perusing all the impressive and/or imported merchandise, the Jarhead and I got back in the car. The fact that the sky cleared and the entire mountain came into view only AFTER we were too far north to turn back to the park and still make it to Fairbanks by sundown would have been supremely ironic if I hadn’t fully expected that outcome. But as I had predicted that the peak would appear in my rearview mirror not long after I took over driving and the Jarhead had fallen asleep, Murphy got none of the credit. He only scores when things go wrong and I DON’T see it coming!

Even as I refused to give him props for preventing us from seeing Denali, I knew better than to mock Murphy and tempt fate. We were still two tourists in a rental car, after all, and there was a LOT of wilderness in which to get lost, have an accident, or meet up with foul play. Sure, we had three cell phones between us, but signal strength outside of Fairbanks and Anchorage was sketchy at best and mobile data service even more so. This was problematic given that we had planned to use the Internet and GPS apps to navigate and hadn’t bothered to pack a map, so I wasn’t about to complain or say anything else that would render me a target for bad karma.

Instead, I chose to sit back, take in the scenery and psych myself up for what was still to come. Like Fairbanks, and our friends who lived there but with whom we’d lost touch but hoped to bump into by accident. And the Arctic Circle, which we hoped to photograph ourselves standing north of after breakfast in the morning. And North Pole, where evidently you can arrange for the staff at Santa’s Workshop to send letters to children you know containing details about all the mischief they’re getting into and warning them to shape up if they want Santa to come down their chimneys at Christmas.

That last part sounded particularly enticing to the Jarhead who thought it would be fun to mess with his nieces and nephews—until I reminded him that most, if not all, of our siblings are in their forties, and few, if any, of their children are young enough to believe in Santa anymore.

So much for my good karma.