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Prime Time: RV trip to Alaska provides many firsts

Muriel Keaveny visited the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest near Juneau, Alaska. The glacier is 12 miles long. Submitted Photo

I was sitting on the step between the driver and shotgun, taking in the beauty surrounding us, and it occurred to me this was the first time in my life I had taken a motor home trip.

Then it occurred to me that this was also my first trip to Yellowstone National Park and Old Faithful and the Grand Tetons. I got really excited just thinking about all the things I had seen or was going to see for the first time.

I am 80 years old, and I was excited and thrilled to be doing these things for the first time in my life.

Traveling the Alcan Highway and seeing the Canadian Rockies were just ahead.

Marilyn and Neen kept the excitement alive talking about what was just over the mountain. At times, it was difficult to keep focused on what was going on at present and anticipating what was coming next.

We entered Canada - no problem. We started on the Alcan or Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and would travel 1,221.8 miles to Alaska.

As we studied the milepost about building the highway, I was taken back to the World War II era, trying to imagine how they accomplished this miracle in less than a year. Looking at the forests and mountains, I puzzled how the surveyors were able to accomplish this feat at that period of life in such a short time. I looked alongside the roads, and it was a straight drop off. I wondered how many people lost their lives. My mind was going wild with questions. How did they get food in, where did they sleep, what kind of living facilities did they have? How did they get material and supplies? What was it like when it was all gravel? Some people I've talked to have experienced that.

Occasionally, we needed a little song to pep things up. So we suggested songs. We didn't know all the words to many songs so we sang "The Bear Went Over the Mountain, (repeat three times) To See What He Could See. The other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain was all that he could see." We repeated this several times. We also sang, "Alfalfa hay, alfalfa hay." Repeat as many times as we desired. Marilyn's favorite was "The Horse Went Around With His Foot on the Ground." We often tossed out one line of a song, but nobody could remember more. Marilyn had a songbook, but improvising was more fun. It was good for a laugh.

We were responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the vehicle. We all shared in the jobs. Someone had to check the oil at gas fill-up, and wash the windshield. We also had to turn all the electricity off when we filled up. Remembering to turn it back on was part of the task not always done.

When we parked for the night, Neen and Marilyn were fantastic at backing it into the parking spot. It was supposed to be level, so it was my job to watch the level inside and give direction while the driver and other person put the wood blocks under the wheels. A couple of times it was impossible, so we said, "The hell with it."

Some meals were better than others. We had vegetables, salad and protein at each meal. Both of the women brought homemade bread.

Neen brought a soup mix, which we elected to have one night. It was a potato cheese variety, which left much to be desired. There was plenty left over so we added some frozen mixed vegetables and some leftover chicken. Didn't help much. We still had a large amount left, and we don't waste. Neen refused to eat any more. Marilyn and I continued to doctor it up. I put potatoes in mine, not much help. Marilyn choked the last bit down one day for breakfast to polish it off. Yeah! We made our own salad dressing from miracle whip and dill pickle juice. I added more pickle juice. Not too bad. Overall, we had very good meals, and we talked several times about doing a food show on TV with our original creations.

Neen woke us early one morning in a panic. She said we had to do long days of driving to get to Anchorage on time. She sat down while we prepared breakfast and added up the miles. She said we had two days to do the rest of the trip. She couldn't figure how she had made such an error. I was remembering the itinerary and thinking we were to get to Anchorage on Wednesday the 25th, so, I spoke up. She was thinking we were due the 24th. Wow, what a relief. So, on we went.

We stopped at the Laird Hot Spring for a swim and stayed overnight. The campground was full so we parked along with many other RV's and tents in the parking lot. The spring was a grand refresher.

We drove across the ice fields and the tundra, which reminded us of the streets in Minnesota in the spring. Good thing I didn't have a weak stomach. I can't imagine having all the heaves in the road year around. Makes our roads look great. On to Alaska. Life is Good