Melanie and Doug and Tracy and I have been playing musical camping locations the whole time we’ve been on our trips to and in Alaska.
The music in this game has been a mix of data—where we want to go, where we’ve already been, the weather, road conditions—each factor dominating our decisions differently. When the jumbled song stops and we two couples dash for chairs, we find ourselves farther away from each than we’d expected when we first decided to travel together this summer. In three months, we’ve camped together in maybe five locations.
When we’re feeling especially bummed that we’re so close yet so far from each other, Melanie and I will text each other, agreeing, “We still have the fair!” We’d bought tickets to the Alaska state fair together months ago, as the final for-sure stop on this adventure together. And rats for everyone that they’ve just had to decide to skip the fair and start driving south right away. Their truck needs work, and, as with everything in Alaska, the replacement part would need to be shipped from the Lower 48 and would cost at least twice as much once it got here, so they’re limping back to get the work done closer to their condo in Ohio.
I hate to think of them doing the drive without us. Helping each other in case of rig trouble is a main reason we decided to travel together in the first place, and here they’ll be hauling ass through Canada, plagued by leaking struts and unpredictable wildfires, with no contacts whatsoever.
We could ditch the fair ourselves and follow them (it’s gonna rain there anyway), but my bet is Doug and Melanie will drive straight through. When they’re making time, they drive through the night and sleep in their truck for short stops, so they’ll cross the border into Canada and then cross back into the U.S. all before we’d even gotten packed up to go, practically.
Man am I going to miss them. Just seeing the dot nearby on my map with an M for Melanie on it was reassuring.
When we were together, though, we made the most of it.
In British Columbia, we shared the experience of watching two moose swim across a lake.
We soaked in hot springs.
We boondocked on the side of the road.
In Yukon, we, laughed in the midnight sun.
We hiked, of course, all over.
In Denali when the sun finally came out, we stayed in the tent playing cards because it was that much fun to be together.
We drank the toe drink in Dawson.
We played cards in the dirt at a festival in Fairbanks.
They introduced us to Carl and Brenda; Banjo still gets excited when she sees someone with a beard because she thinks it’s Carl.
Everywhere we met, Melanie and Doug and Banjo had a grand reunion.
The reason I have so many photos with them when we camped together so little is that they’d go out of their way to visit us, if only for an hour. That means the world when you have only two friends all summer.
I don’t know when or where we’ll see them again, but I do know that we will. In the meantime, here is Doug’s latest post from Alaska, with tons of details about the U.S.’s largest national park, plus his incomparable photos.
Please cross your fingers for a safe trip back for them.