Home > Uncategorized > Day 69: Dreams realized

Day 69: Dreams realized

Finally arrived

Location: Fairbanks, AK

Miles Driven: 610

Total Miles: 17,068

Well, as you can see in the picture above, I finally made it to Alaska.  Over 17,000 miles since leaving Acworth, Georgia…I’m finally here.  Feels great, and it’s pretty surreal.

Now that was a picture taken earlier this afternoon, but there was a lot of driving before that photo (and after), so let’s go back to the morning when I was in Whitehorse.

I’ll readily admit I’m not the handy-est of people.  My skills with a car are limited to changing tires and jumping batteries.  So when I realized I needed to replace two headlight bulbs, I was hopeful I could get someone at the NAPA Auto Parts store to give me a hand.  See, my car owner’s manual was not incredibly helpful.  In the section entitled “replacing headlight bulbs” it said:  Be sure to visit an authorized Mazda technician…  Not the biggest of helps there.  So I got to the NAPA store shortly after it opened, and checked with the mechanic dude that was working there.  He was real kind, but admitted he’s never been under the hood of a Mazda before…and after a quick look inside realized there was more to take apart then your typical bulb change.  My experience was limited to changing bulbs on an old Mercury Topaz years ago, and I recall little to disassemble in that operation.  Not the same here, it appeared.  The mechanic suggested I hit up a Mazda dealership in Fairbanks, and not to worry about the law where you need to keep your lights running during the day.  “You’re a tourist, you’re fine…hell half of the tourists don’t even know the law.”

An added bonus I didn’t think about…what better place for your headlights to run out than in these northern latitudes.  In Whitehorse, there was still daylight the previous night after 10PM.  Daylight will last even longer when I’m up in Alaska.

So I was in the car and got back on the Alaska Highway, heading northwest towards Fairbanks.  I had about 600 miles ahead of me, and it seemed a bit daunting, especially after all the driving I had done since the start of the week.  But it actually went by quite smoothly.  The nice scenery certainly helps there.

It’s difficult to make progress driving when you’re distracted by all this spectacular scenery.  I found myself pulling over quite a bit for some nice views.

For some reason I had a good amount of energy, and outside of the occasional gas-up and leg stretch, I was able to keep plugging away along the 600 mile route.

Kluane Lake

Around 3PM I was approaching the Canada/Alaska border.  There was a rest area just 20 miles outside where I stopped.  Another clear blue Canadian body of water – Pickhandle Lake.

Before I knew it, I was at the border.  The “Welcome to Alaska” sign was just before Customs, so I got out to take some pictures.  Met a nice couple from Michigan and the man kindly took my photo (the one you see above).

Amazing to see that sign in person

I made it through Customs relatively unscathed this time.  The officer asked me a lot of questions, but I think he was more trying to see if I would trip up than he was actually paying attention to my answers.  He didn’t like my passport.  Apparently I’ve bent and warped it a bit in my travels, so it doesn’t easily scan.  As he put it, “Since your passport has been to the Himalayas and back, it can’t be read by the scanner.”  He told me I need to get a new one.  I think he just doesn’t like typing.  Also, I have never been to the Himalayas.  I was expecting my car to be searched like the previous border crossings, but he waved me through and I was on my way.

I didn’t have to drive long to see some of the beautiful country for which Alaska is known.

I experienced a bit of rain not long after crossing the border.  Can’t complain about that.  I could barely remember the last place I saw any sustained rain in my travels. I think I narrowed it down to when I was on the way to Big Bend, in Texas.  Almost a month ago.  I’ve had some great weather while touring the western US and Canada.

I arrived in Fairbanks not long after 8PM.  Still a lot of daylight remaing when I arrived.  In fact, as I write this, it’s almost 11PM and there’s still a good amount of daylight out there.  I love it.

For the first time since Will’s place in Vancouver, I have a home to stay in.  Thanks to couchsurfing.net I linked up with a Fairbanks local, Ericka.  She has been extremely generous, having offered me her couch with limited notice, in addition to hosting another couchsurfer.  She even plans to take us out for some outdoor activities…maybe go out on a lake or go hiking, even.  I’ve only communicated with her using email and text messages, but she sounds like a great person to link up with.

I’ll go to Ericka’s later tonight, get some much-needed rest (and shower), and then tomorrow is my first full day in “The Last Frontier.”

Coming here was just one goal, of many, along this trip, but was definitely the major goal.  Thanks to all my friends and family who have been so supportive along the road here.


  1. Marta
    August 7, 2010 at 6:21 am

    wow!! Joe!! you did it! you’ve got to Alaska! the most remote and breathtaking piece of land in the continent! So good! And the most important! your car still follows you! hehehe

  2. Mike
    August 7, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Well done! Great read at 3am with the little man. Maybe Bristol has a couch to stay on, lol.

  3. The Mommie
    August 7, 2010 at 8:16 am

    You have converted your dream into a reality. Your will is your strength! It is your character in action.

    “To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.”
    John Muir

  4. Jonathan
    August 7, 2010 at 8:22 am

    What was Seward thinking? Folly indeed!

  5. Colleen
    August 7, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Nice work, Jipster! That is really awesome. Continue to enjoy the beauty around you!

  6. John
    August 7, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Joe, nice job making it to Alaska! We made it back to ga after a great week in Boulder. enjoy your time up there and you might want to try your hand at some salmon fishing.

  7. Intern
    August 7, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Cool, joe! Just don’t turn into Alexander McCandless and decide to live up there…

  8. August 7, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Congratulations, wow, what a trip so far!!

  9. intrepidtraveller
    August 7, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Great blog, and the photos are unreal…Alaska is stunning by the looks of it! Totally reminds me of ‘Into the Wild’.

    • August 10, 2010 at 2:21 am

      Thanks a lot, glad you like it. The film and book both captured the beauty of this place, but even those can’t do it justice. Great to be here, looking at mountains, and breathing in the cool Alaskan air.

  10. Betty Scollan Watney
    August 8, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Hi Joe!

    Congratulations! My brother, Frank is a friend of your dad. My husband and I have lived in Alaska for decades. We go to Denali every fall and know lots of tips.

    Email me if you want to get in touch. We live on the Kenai Peninsula, a couple of hundred miles south of Anchorage, near Homer.

    Good Luck~

    • August 10, 2010 at 2:19 am

      Betty, getting to talk to you ahead of time helped make the time in Denali an unforgettable experience. Really appreciate your tips, and can’t wait to see more of your state.

  11. Danielle Vaughn
    August 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Glad you have finally been able to give couch surfing a try! And of course, glad that you have made it to Alaska. I can’t wait to read more of of your adventures.

    • August 10, 2010 at 2:19 am

      Thanks a lot, Danielle. CSing was a pretty good experience, glad I gave it a shot

  12. August 8, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Quite an accomplishment. So glad to see you achieve this goal. Enjoy every minute of it!
    I like your boldness of criticizing Mazda’s owner’s manual a day after they tweeted about your site. Rock on.

    • August 10, 2010 at 2:17 am

      Thanks Melly. Nice gravatar, btw.

  13. Norman
    August 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Day 69? Sounds like more than one dream was realized for Joe today!

  14. Dan Cartie
    August 12, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Those pics from the Yukon are fantastic!

    • August 13, 2010 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks Dan. What an amazing drive through there. Hopefully by the time I swing back, there will be less haze from the forest fires

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