Picking Up Strays - On the Road # 10


Hey y’all,

Again, this is a letter written 14 years after the DIYBTRT in Alaska, the summer and fall of 2005. So Joe and I decided to go to Valdez first before heading to McCarthy for the Blackburn Festival. We were curious to follow the pipeline all the way to Valdez. But Joe slept on that drive, which I couldn’t believe. Maybe he has since experienced the incredible beauty I did. But the drive between the Wrangell/St Elias range and the Chugach range is known for a low cloud cover ALL THE TIME. On that day, the cloud cover lifted and what I saw was all kinds of jaw-dropping-stunning-gorgeous! The jagged peaks, glaciers that stretched almost to the road (or so it seemed) and the deep, rich, emerald green that was both vivid and surreal, I felt like I was driving through a mythical land. Where I lived was plenty beautiful, but this was the most exquisite part of Alaska that I ever saw. And that was only from the road. That was not the backcountry.

Joe decided to stay on in Valdez in the hopes of getting another fishing job. He didn’t and joined me at Blackburn, where we stayed in my half collapsed tent. Shannon, the friend from the peanut oil bus, saw Joe entering my tent and was about to deck him, when I showed up and reassured her that he was a friend of mine. The Festival happened, and the blogs about it are here and here for anybody who’d like to read about it.

Another friend joked that I picked up strays along the way and took them for a ride of a brief spell in my road trip, and that was true after this Girdwood party in Kennicott. I don’t remember how this happened, but after the Festival was over, there were a handful of us who stayed in the parking lot for another night. A photographer from Girdwood who had a passing resemblance to one of the Bee Gees in their prime, he had long hair and a beard, and a similar mindset to somebody who came of age in the Disco era – and no he was not of that age. I think Girdwood’s random lesbian, a cute girl with a pixie blonde haircut and large heart shaped sunglasses, a responsible looking woman and her husband, and me and Joe. Anyway, the Bee Gees photographer dude caught a ride with me and my Beast filled with books, and Joe in the backseat. The drive was several hours to Anchorage and then around Turnagain Arm to Girdwood. The photographer lectured Joe about his attitude about something or other, which pissed Joe off to no end. We still had a place to crash, and Bee Gees Photographer Dude showed us the pictures he had taken of all the belly dancers gyrating near the rusting ruins of a defunct copper mine – because of course, he took a lot pictures of the belly dancers. He didn’t get ANY shots of the magical moment when they danced spontaneously. I doubt the essence of that dance could have been captured in a snapshot though.

Anyway, that catches up the gaps in that particular squeeze of time that I neglected to write home about.