ALASKA Day 5: Return to Anchorage

I apologize to everyone for the lateness of getting this post up. I have been experiencing technical difficulties, and for whatever reason, the pictures that I have been trying to upload just won't. So, this will be an abbreviated post and I'll do what I can to edit it for content and photographs when I return to Columbus.

In any case, Friday was a day of travel and wildlife. It began early well before dawn as I packed and awaited a Yukon Trails Shuttle Van ( for the return trip from Fairbanks to Alaska. I gotta tell ya: Yukon Trails provides an awesome service. Every day there is scheduled shuttle van/bus service between Anchorage and Fairbanks with appropriate stops along the way to pickup and discharge passengers on their way up or down the Parks Highway and the other major highways in Alaska. They also offer trips, such as a Day trip to the Arctic Circle with lunch, photo ops at the demarcation line, and more. As much preparation that you do for an Alaskan trip, you can never really discover all the possibilities until you get there and see for yourself what there is to offer. But in any case, Yukon Trails picked me up at my door in Fairbanks, and I was immediately welcomed by their driver, Steve.

Steve is from California, a mortician of 25 years in California and Alaska, who has given it up to become a Railroad Engineer. During the off season, he works for Yukon Trails which pays him to travel Alaska and sightsee along the way. How cool is that? Of course, there is always a downside. Friday it was having to put up with Ray--a non-recovering alcoholic who was very drunk the entire 7-hour trip, and who kept interupting conversations and who was getting overly frienly with me.

Within the first five minutes of the trip, Ray expressed how much he hoped to see me again the next time I was in Alaska. Ray patted my back, put his hands on my shoulder, etc, etc, etc. Later in the trip, he kept repeating himself. He never sobered up and he even snuck out of the van to drink some of his liquor he was hiding when he told Steve he needed to stop to relieve himself. Ray dribbled cranberry juice down his entire face and jacket. Ray did not recognize Steve when we stopped at a regular stop for potty breaks and refueling. Ray invited me to stay with him at his place for the night and then asked if he could stay with me. Ray offered to buy me a drink and then asked if I had $10 or $20 to loan him. And when we arrived in Anchorage, Ray couldn't make up his mind where he wanted to get off, and when he did get off at the Bus Station, Ray had no idea how many bags he actually had or which ones they were and could not ascertain whether or not he had them all. After Steve had dropped the other two passengers off, an MP in Alaska for a funeral and a college student attending school in Anchorage, Steve discovered he had extra bags and opened them to discover AA literature and more. Steve returned to the bus station, Ray was still there, but he did not recognize Steve. Steve put Ray's belongings with the rest of them sitting outside and left.

It's really sad to see something like that. Ray reeked of alcohol, had a black eye, claimed he was an electrician and said he was on worker's comp; but as far as drunks go, Ray was easy to handle--at least until Steve's cell phone beeped and Ray made a fist and asked if we were all ready as if the shuttle van were a boxing ring.

Steve, myself and the MP made light of the situation as best as we could, and we continued on with our own conversations and laughed and somewhat ignored Ray while trying very hard to remain polite and patient with the guy. The last thing we needed was an agitated drunk in a van driving down an icy highway at -40 degrees outside. I was just glad we all made it to Anchorage safely.

But the trip was not without it's moments. Twice we saw wildlife. Along side the road we spotted two moose, who fortunately were content to stay where they were. And we were astonished to see a wolf actually cross the highway and run off into the trees near Denali. I also was able to get some decent photo ops in Healy of me with the mountains of Denali in the background, and some photos of trees covered in snow near Willow that will make excellent Christmas Cards at some point in the future.

Back in Anchorage, I re-checked into the Earth Bed and Breakfast and then met up with Steve and some ladies and had a good time in town back at the F Street Station, the Glacier Brewhouse (, and other night spots.

All in all, another interesting Alaskan adventure and a little well deserved R&R. Not a bad way to spend the day at all.

Thanks for reading.


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