July 11, 2019
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
Here I am, on the edge of the unknown. Tomorrow I will, for the first time, drive north into Canada and onward to Alaska. This section of my trip has loomed large on my horizon for some time. The logistics are challenging. The distances are great. The risks are increased. The rewards are promising. For three days I will drive through British Columbia and the Yukon Territory to reach Skagway, Alaska – the jumping off point for my great Northern adventure. I am nervous and unsure, but travel isn’t always comfortable. The point is to grow, to test yourself and run the risks to reap the rewards.
Months before I embarked on my year-long adventure, I recognized that there were three sections of my trip that were complex enough to require some help. I hired a travel agent to help plan the Caribbean leg, the Alaskan leg, and the Pacific leg. I am glad I did! JV at Brentwood Travel listened to my plans and my unusual request and dove in to my project. Together, we decided to contract with another agency for planning the Alaska leg. Over the period of a few weeks, we hashed out a complex itinerary that would get me to all 23 National Park sites in Alaska within a four-week window. Most of the Alaska parks can only be visited by plane or boat, and they are spread all over the very large state. Once the itinerary was finalized, I paid for the whole adventure in advance.
Two weeks ago, the company my agent and I used, mysteriously went out of business. The once reputable company left many customers stranded in far-flung locales, and left many travel agencies with their commissions unpaid. I was left with partially paid reservations and two weeks of uncertainty about the future of my trip. During the last two weeks, my agent, JV, scrambled to contact all of the hotels, flights, and vendors on my itinerary to piece my trip back together. She got it done – an amazing feat! She saved my trip! This is the value of hiring a professional, and I want to thank JV and everyone at Brentwood Travel in St. Louis, Missouri for going above and beyond to take care of their clients.
As I progress into the second half of my trip, I thought it important to take some time to recognize the people, like JV, who have made this trip possible. One does not just pick up and abandon all, to live on the road for a year, without help. First, I have to thank my business partner, Heath Aldrich. Heath encouraged me to take this trip - knowing full well that he would have to spend the year doing his job and my job and keeping our business floating the whole time. He never discouraged me, he never second-guessed, and he never complained. Next, I owe enormous thanks to Cayla Scherf and Derek Weikle for building and running the 418 Parks website. Cayla curates the photos on the website and uploads the blog posts as I send them to her. They have constructed a beautiful website. David Dandridge also encouraged me to take this trip, knowing that he would have to spend the year with the added responsibility of keeping my house and yard in order, and making sure my monthly bills got paid. Mallarie, John, Melissa, Doug and Glenda have also given me support and encouragement for this undertaking. None of these people asked for credit. They just knew that this was something that I needed to do, and they helped me make it possible. I am a very lucky man, and I hope they all know how much I appreciate all they have done for me and the sacrifices they have made. We should all be so lucky to have people like this in our lives.
Parks visited since July 1st:
Great Basin National Park (revisit)
Devils Postpile National Monument
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
Olympic National Park
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Mount Rainier National Park
Manhattan Project National Historical Park
Whitman Mission National Historic Site
Nez Perce National Historical Park