Me and Daisy are driving!

Posted on July 12 2014 in The Arctic

Daisy and me 1032x338I know it’s bad grammar, but “Me and Daisy” just sounds right.  It is much more enthusiastic and communicates the excitement much better than the staid and responsible “Daisy and I.” This decision is absolutely not staid and responsible.

I have decided to drive the 3,300 miles to Fairbanks, with the help of my trusty automotive companion Daisy, of course.

It is a long, long way to Alaska from San Francisco, through beautiful country and boring.  But about a month ago, when I was doing my research, I realized that many consider the Brooks Range, where we will be putting into the river, to be the northern most extent of the Rocky Mountains.  How cool, I thought to myself, to follow the Rockies up into Alaska and end up in the Brooks Range?  Then I heard about the Yellowstone to Yukon Wildlife Corridor – an effort to assure unencumbered migration routes – and all of a sudden it dawned on me: when in your adult life, can you grab a large chunk of time and head out for open-ended adventure?  Rarely, if ever.  And I find myself in just such a remarkable situation – my consulting work has slowed down for the summer, I recently sold my house, I’m romantically unattached.  Why not head on down the road and expand the ANWR adventure to include exploring a migration route for myself?  I have an opportunity here to take a grand adventure and make it grander, and I’m going to grab it.

Let me introduce you to Daisy.  Isn’t she pretty?  The first time I walked up to her, I noticed the flower wheels and the bright white paint job and knew her name immediately.  Don’t be fooled by her genteel exterior.  No, she doesn’t have four wheel drive and high road clearance, but she’s got the heart of an adventuress. My last Honda Accord took me down many gravel lanes and over many rutted roads in satisfaction of my wanderlust.  We amassed countless tales to tell over our 279,000 miles together. I have no doubt that Daisy and I will do the same.

The general reaction of family and friends to this decision: “You WHAT?”  To be honest, a fair number of my friends have upped the ante to “You CAN’T.”  But as this possibility has evolved, most everyone has come around to seeing the excitement of the journey.   One dear soul actually helped me plan my route.  Another talked to a friend and got the reassurance he needed that it was doable and backed off. My family has made tentative peace with my insanity and have taken over many of my responsibilities while I’m away, enabling me to go.

Many in the you-are-out-of-your-mind camp have actual experience with this trip. I am not treating their misgivings lightly. I have listened to their concerns, taken their advice. The Alaska-Canada Highway is fully paved these days – a long way from the hundreds of miles of gravel and pot holes it used to be – but there is still plenty of construction, I hear, fixing the previous winter’s frost heaves.  A friend drove it in an RV  just last week and says it is fully passable for Miss Daisy. I did, however, get a full size spare tire.  I figured that with the long stretches between pockets of civilization, driving on Daisy’s small spare, even if just to the next town, would be unsafe in and of itself.  Add to that the likelihood that the local garage wouldn’t have a tire the right size, and it just made sense to invest in a full size spare.

The guys at the tire shop were great – measured everything, found me a tire and an inexpensive rim, figured out a way to fit it into the wheel well so I didn’t even lose any space in the trunk. Because that was the next issue – space.  But it all fits!  Good girl, Daisy.  The trunk has all the stuff I’ll need for the Refuge: boxes of food, dry sacks filled with tent, sleeping bag, pad along with the many layers of clothes, camera, and first aid kit. The back seat has my suitcase and a box of snacks for the drive. The ice chest lives on the floor of the front passenger seat.  We’re snug as a bug, as they say.

I’m in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho writing this – two days into this adventure. I passed through Bend again on my way up, got great tips from Jeff and his wife, Laurie, on food.  We set up my new tent and added additional guy lines in anticipation of the wind in the Arctic. Then we set up the cook tent for practice as well.  Jeff even lent me his camp stove for the road.  To return the favor, Daisy is now carrying Jeff’s Refuge food. Better than him having to pay extra to bring it with him on the plane, and it is something Daisy and I are happy to do – we had room!

It was beautiful here last night – 85 degrees at 8:00 at night – families were still swimming in the Spokane River late into the evening.  For someone who comes from the Bay Area, where warm summer nights are a rarity, it was a joy to sit on the riverbank and watch the fun and hear the laughter, feel the warmth of the air and smell the pines.  Today I head to Waterton Glacier International Peace Park in Montana which straddles the US-Canada border.  Along the way, I will catch my first glimpse of the Rockies, and this migration will begin in earnest.



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