North to Alaska (Part 2)
We left Southern California on July 29, Mark and I in the front, Ashley and Laura (ages 16 and 11) in the middle, Sarah (13) on one side of the third-row seat with two birds in two micro-carriers on her lap, a large Newfoundland-Chow mix dog in the cargo area, and three cats in three carriers back in the travel trailer. We pulled out of the driveway full of excitement, Harry Potter Book #5 on the CD player, ready for our adventure north.
We drove around 200 miles, and were in the middle of a desolate stretch of Interstate 5, which runs the entire length of California, in 100+ degree weather, when the Suburban suddenly just stopped. Mark was able to roll off to the side of the road, getting as much of the travel trailer on the shoulder as possible. We called AAA, and waited. A ginormous tow truck arrived and said he’d tow us all to an RV park just off the highway, then take our car into the closest town with a repair shop – about 50 miles away.
The dog and birds were fairing fine in the car, but the cats weren’t doing too well in the back. Two of the three apparently had motion sickness, which was joy in itself to clean up (you know cats just LOVE baths!), especially after a stressful day. But we all settled into our places in the rather specious trailer, entertaining ourselves with a karaoke machine we had bought for the trip (“The Magic Microphone”!).
And there we sat in the sweltering sun – in Kettleman City, home to a truck stop, bar, and RV park, on the outskirts of Death Valley. The next day, we were able to get a rental car (they actually drove the 50 miles, picked up Mark and I, and we drove the driver back). For the next week, while we waited for a new transmission to arrive, we drove 100 miles in all directions – to a waterpark for one day, to Sequoia National Park in another – and managed to keep the kids entertained, truly trying to make the most of a trying (and ultimately expensive) situation.
Finally, we were able to get back on the road, and return to our original itinerary, visiting friends along the way, just a week later than planned. The Al-Can Highway was an experience in itself, but the scenery was amazing. We met people everywhere we stayed, enjoyed lakes, mountains, and sweeping valleys, and saw a myriad of wildlife. We tried to drive no more than eight hours a day, leaving time to recover and explore before the next day’s travels.
Finally, 16 days after we left our California home, we entered Alaska, and pulled into a place called The Willow Creek Resort, where my fellow school staff members were having a summer meet-and-greet campout.