Baby Bison, don't tread on that pretty flower...

Baby Bison, don't tread on that pretty flower...
Custer State Park, SD; June, 2010

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Columbia, TN, United States
I am a Christian, married over 43 years to my gorgeous first wife; in 13th year as professor of education at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, TN; 4 children and 9 grandchildren.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Arctic Ocean Road Trip: the beginning

If half the fun of any trip is in the planning, then the other half is getting there. Choosing to begin a 30-day Arctic Ocean road trip in my hometown of Columbia instead of at Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway in Dawson City, British Columbia, presented a huge challenge for this 62-year-old college professor.
To start my dream vacation of driving the ALCAN, exploring Alaska, and sticking my fingers in the Arctic Ocean, I had to first get there. That meant averaging 850 miles a day for five days while traversing parts of several states – Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana. Then I had to drive hundreds (seemed like thousands) of kilometers through the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory. Fortunately, I was able to stay ahead of schedule beginning the ALCAN run on the morning of the fourth day (after a restful night at God Backpackers Hostel in Edmonton, Alberta), crossing the entire Yukon on the fifth day to arrive in Tok, Alaska, to bed down at the Sourdough Campground (only place with hot showers and a cheap price tag). By now I was used to sleeping in the car, if that’s possible for my three-score-and-two year old bones.
My first night had been spent in the northernmost Iowa rest area on I-35. The second night I “lodged” in a rest area in Shelby, Montana. The third night was great at the Canadian hostel. The fourth night I almost made it to the Yukon, stopping just short of Watson Lake at a rest area. I had pushed to 11 p.m. and with the sun still setting ahead of me, I pulled over. When I awoke about 3 a.m., the sun seemed still to be setting. I was the same twilight glow, but now it was in my rearview mirror. Yes, it rises in the east even in that “Land of the Midnight Sun.”
In addition to passing the crucial historical markers along the way, the highlight of those first five travel days was the wildlife.
Between Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and the ALCAN highway through British Columbia, I managed to check off quite a few mammals that I had anticipated seeing in Alaska including bear, caribou, moose, elk, bison, deer, coyote, prairie dog, and wild mustang. My four-mile walking tour of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve outside of Whitehorse added mountain goats, musk ox, and bighorn sheep to the list.
As I negotiated the frost heaves, gravel construction zones, and rolls of the road challengingly presented by the Yukon, the scenery got beyond breathtaking, all the way to – what word is beyond breathtaking? Even awe-inspiring and spectacular don’t quite make it. I must state, as I contemplate the next 18 days exploring Alaska, that I probably won’t actually see anything quite as breathtaking as the smile on my grandson Aiden’s face in Moline, Illinois, as I visited for just a few minutes before heading North to Alaska.
Wow! Double WOW!

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