The Road to Seward


The SUV we picked up in Anchorage turned out to be the gift that kept on giving… repair bills. We finished packing it and headed to Anchorage on AK 1, with Mary driving.

And that’s when all hell broke loose. The car started to misfire and decelerate. “Feel that crosswind,” my daughter said, fighting the wheel. I was baffled, because the trees were standing straight. A moment later, the rear end started swaying like an old cow.  A rear track bar had snapped.

A day later, the bar was welded. I started it up outside the shop. Now it was shaking while idling. I started to think I was stranded in Anchorage with a dead SUV. Since I wasn’t expecting this, I had no Plan B.

Our mechanic suggested we make ourselves scarce until he had time to work on the engine. My daughter Mary recommended Potter Marsh in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. Here, the Seward Highway runs along Turnagain Arm. Across the water are the blue peaks of the Chugach National Forest, shrouded in clouds. Any of these land features would send me hurrying for my paints; together they were overwhelming.

At the first overlook, I met another plein air painter. He turned out to be Gil from Plein Air Painters of Alaska. They were holding their weekly paint-out at the marsh. Chattering happily, I set up next to Gil, only to realize that I’d forgotten to buy odorless mineral spirits (OMS) and medium after my flight. Mary ran off to the art supply store, and Gil kindly poured enough OMS into my tank to get me started.

I painted until about 1 PM and returned to the garage. Eventually, our mechanic realized that he couldn’t diagnose the problem. Disheartened, Mary called her friends Debbie and Jason to ask if we could stay another night with them. Jason called a mechanic friend of his for help, and he offered to look at the car on Saturday afternoon.

In 2016, my daughter Mary and I set off across Alaska and Canada on a Great White North Adventure, which you can read about starting here. We arrived in Anchorage at the beginning of September and got home in mid-October. In between, we visited every province but PEI (been there, done that), and Yukon Territory. In retrospect, it might have made more sense to do this during the summer, since Alaska and Canada threw a mess of strange weather at us.

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The Road to Seward is 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard.

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