3. North to Alaska: Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 – Life Out Here
I look back now and see the lesson unfurl like some faded map. For a girl wired to plot and plan and see the thing through to the exhausted end, weeks of no move date and a route still to-be-determined primed me for one of two possible responses: to rise, or stumble again through a season of great faith-testing. The darkened world outside crumbled into chaotic silence; inside, the taught network of humanity exploded like overheated transformers at the slightest fleck of disturbance. My own walls came down around me, exposing adventure and the bright promise of the new. But the new landscape was shadowed by the unknown.
Oh, the unknown.
I followed my footprints back into the crucible. “I’m here again, God.” This time, with the unexplainable help of Jesus, I rose to the occasion.
“I’ll make a plan A, plan B, and even a plan C. We’ll be ready for anything.”
I wearied of telling my family, “I’ll let you know when I know.”
I was often nervous.
What if all this hoopla ended with no change of scenery? What if I had boxed just about everything only to jinx the whole move?
As with everything in life, even our tomorrows are unpromised, the unknown can be as terrifying as it is exhilarating, and there is freedom in surrender. I gave it all to God. I took it one day at a time. I made sure to enjoy it. The days when I let the television babysit so I could pack just one more closet were guilt-filled and awful. Other days, I happily served Dino-nuggets and apple juice knowing I had done a good day’s work, that I had done enough. On one of those days, we got news.
We had the entire month of July to travel from Prattville to Anchorage. We had bona fide approval. Real orders. My green light. We calculated the miles from Prattville to Shreveport to San Antonio where the kids would fly to the northwest to stay with my family because can you picture thirty-one days of cross-continental travel with two dogs and two young children? Frequent bathroom breaks, bottles of hand sanitizer, COVID-19, three to six hours of Frozen II, Candian travel restrictions.
I can picture it. It’s horrifying.
No, by the middle of June, my Summer of 2020 outlook was dreamy. En route, we’d see just about everyone related to us and all the countryside to satisfy a pair of restless wanderers. I’d travel highways I’d traveled as a child, and see more of Canada than I’d ever seen before. Of course, we’d be limited to drive-by sight-seeing in Canada, but the winding British Columbia highways promised miles of sky-high granduer. As for the Alaska Highway.
The Milepost still rested on the hutch, untouched except for the inaugural quick fanning of pages, guarded by my unfinished felted Santa. I was not quite ready to visualize the play-by-play I had drawn out. It was suggested we travel about 350 miles per day. I took the suggestion as Gospel, but sometimes 350 miles on the Alaska Highway leads you to the middle of nowhere British Columbia. Finally, after hours and hours of fiddling with possible routes and recalibrating the miles, I had the route completed.
Now, there would have been no need to tell me the scariest part of the entire drive is the Yukon. To me, the word Yukon was all mystery and legend, a word tossed about with words like “Jack London” and “extreme” and “wilderness.” Upon closer inspection, it truly became an ominous territory with a mind of its own.
“And they make you drive through the Yukon in twenty-four hours,” I told Zach one night. Twenty four hours to traverse seven hundred and fifty miles of the worst part of the Alaska Highway! The news made me uneasy, and it was news which made our expedition interesting all over again because, “now we only have thirteen days to get to Anchorage,” he said.