If you were to clone Aroostook County, Maine, stamp it out an infinite number of times, and suck out all the people and most of the potatoes and roads, you would have created Alaska. Oh, you’d need to crumple your finished drawing too, for Alaska is also very mountainous.
I know this because I drove thousands of miles across Alaska and Canada, with a detour above the Arctic Circle.
I started this day at Buzco Automotive in South Anchorage. It was owned by a church buddy of Jason and Debbie, who let us couch surf while we tried to figure out what was wrong with our aged SUV. Buzco was very unprepossessing but the owner, Jayson, was a very gifted mechanic. At the time, we thought a replacement catalytic converter was $1000 and a day’s delay. Later we learned that it wouldn’t have ever been available; the Suzuki was too old.
Instead, Jayson cut the pipe, cleaned out the mess, and welded it back together. Presto, a smooth engine.
Jayson was the second of many mechanics who would work on our car along the way. While I cooled my heels, I painted a little study of Ship Creek, which winds through industrial South Anchorage. As with so many places in Alaska, stunning scenery sits next to the humdrum necessities of modern life.
The car ran like a top as we zoomed through the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. Mist shrouded the mountains and the autumn foliage stood out against the towering, jagged peaks.
And then we blew the muffler.
Reluctantly, I turned back to Wasilla and googled muffler shops. We opted for the local one, Quality Muffler, and prayed it wouldn’t be busy and we wouldn’t be ripped off. Ten Thousand Reasons (to bless the Lord) by Mat Redman was pouring out of the speakers as we pulled in. Mike replaced a gasket, a hanger strap, and the missing bolts. He pumped up our spare tire and sent us on our way with two jars of his wife’s home-canned salmon.
As difficult as this trip got at times, we were blessed. The SUV never died when we were out of cell range, or far from a city, and we were never taken advantage of. We camped in lonely, isolated backwoods country with no problems at all. It felt like we were handed along a chain of saints all the way. You may doubt this, but I was there.
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.