Road Trip Manifesto: Go Big or Don’t Go

Justin words AK to FL sideview (3)

This month is the 1-year anniversary of Summer Road Trip 2015: Alaska to Florida (yes, road trip as in driving). That thing was nuts. My best friend was moving back down here to Florida and the arrangement with her travel companion fell through; I didn’t have any summer classes lined up so I thought, “What the heck?” (That was an unforgettable 3 weeks. Seriously. I’ll regale you later). – My Next Journey Begins!

The regaling starts now.

A One-Way Road Trip 

We researched, packed and prepped everything from the car to pet passports. The plan: I fly up to join Megan (my yarn-loving best friend) in Fairbanks, Alaska, from where we drive through Canada to the U.S. (Rockies to the Midwest through to the Southeast) and arrived in Florida in a little over 2 weeks.

The adventure officially commenced when I arrived at the Florida airport for the first of my two Alaska Airlines flights.

Customs lines were long but pleasantly swift. Arriving super early, I found my gate in no time (just to make sure it existed because there’s nothing like looking for something last minute that should be there but, inexplicably, is somewhere else) where I read magazines until go-time.

Flight#1: Is There a Doc on the Plane?

Layover destination: Seattle, WA.

I sat by the aisle with two young ladies between me and the window. They appeared to be in their twenties, didn’t look alike but their mannerisms were similar so—friends, not sisters. My only communication with them was a vanilla “hello” and then I kept to myself.

In my carry-on: magazines, Sudoku, pen/pencil, comp notebook, and two bags of these spicy ginger candies that made my nose run (I get motion-sick like it’s nobody’s business but I’m a sissy enough that Dramamine actually puts me to sleep; traveling alone, I needed a less sleep-inducing remedy. Ginger is good for nausea hence the candy).

I switched among reading, daydreaming that I was anywhere but on a plane, writing and trying to sleep but the action in the back was distracting. Every so often the flight attendants walked briskly up and down the aisle, clearly preoccupied with something other than their usual duties. Soon I heard them whispering updates about a medical emergency in the back. About midway through the forever-and-ever flight, an attendant made an announcement and asked if there was a doctor on the plane.

I overheard flight attendants saying that paramedics would be waiting when we landed and that the patient would be removed from the plane prior to allowing any other passengers to disembark.

When the plane landed, we all waited; the main attendant apologized repeatedly and asked us to remain seated. An older woman and a tall older gentleman with a full head of white hair shuffled slowly by my shoulder as they followed a lady attendant to the front. A second gentleman brought up the rear. With close cropped gray hair and an athletic physique, this gentleman wore board shorts, an Aloha shirt and a stethoscope (yes, there certainly was a doc on the plane).

Flight#2: Our Glowing Green Stalker

Final Destination: Fairbanks, AK

The terminal/gate in Seattle was dark and empty (a little before midnight). This time, I had a window seat with two older ladies on my elbow who were on their way to enjoy an Alaska cruise.

These ladies included me in their conversation most of the time which I didn’t mind at all. I still couldn’t sleep and the cabin lights were dimmed so it was difficult to read (Alaska Air’s official nap time?); eventually the lights of cities shrank and ducked into distant darkness, and clouds hung below us. I could barely make out rivers (or deltas, I couldn’t tell which) because the meager daylight reflected subtly off the water which highlighted them just so in an otherwise obscure landscape (was cool). Color touched one edge of the cold black sky, reducing to a warm line of muted light along the horizon that not once took its eye off us.

Then I saw a thing outside. My vision isn’t amazing and, combined with how dark it was, I thought it was a funny trail of green clouds at first. Except it moved (too high to be fog, so what—super high clouds?). Nope, I saw my first aurora borealis from a plane! It seemed to parallel our flight path, trailing north. I know it’s made of light but it looked like glowing mist (green mist??). Like a stinky glowing mist of coolness.

The small plane set down at the Fairbanks International Airport—an itty bitty facility compared to international airports to which I’m accustomed (Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport, etc.).

The plane came to a stop. We stretched. People stood up. The power went out.

The passengers collectively froze. Everything electronic had gone out all at once (cabin lights, the AC, plus what sounded like the engines). After a tense moment, the plane flickered black to life. Something casual and normal was immediately offered from the cockpit over the PA system but I didn’t catch it because the older ladies and I were too busy staring at each other, aghast.

Welcome to Fairbanks, Alaska!

IMAG1064 fairbanks (2)

View of Fairbanks from the University of Alaska Museum of the North


Next in the Alaska to Florida Adventure: The Imaginary Night Zoo

11 thoughts on “Road Trip Manifesto: Go Big or Don’t Go

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