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Driving South

carpackWhen we came up to Alaska, Dale and I kept a shared blog. It was a fun way to chronicle a weird journey, both the drive itself and the transition to living in Alaska, which is a pretty unique place. It’s been useful to several people through the years, because they got to see what my move (driving from Pittsburgh) and Dale’s move (shipping a bunch of boxes and flying) looked like and get a sense of the pros and cons of each approach.

But because we’re leaving Alaska, and because the blog’s title was “Moving to Alaska,” that doesn’t seem like the place to chronicle the trip back. Plus, I’ve lived in Charlottesville before, so there aren’t going to be that many “new weird things” to write about: location-wise (rather than job-wise), it’s more an issue of readjusting to what I used to know than getting to know something new. (Job-wise, it’s a lot of new, which I had already planned to chronicle here.) It’s definitely not worth making a new blog, “Moving out of Alaska,” right? ;)

I have a blog right here! I’ll just use this one. I’ll be pretty slack about it, though. (Meaning, if you don’t see posts for a couple of days, I was tired or had nothing cool to report; it won’t mean that I was driven off the road, OK?) If you aren’t interested in following any of these posts, filter out everything tagged “AKtoVA,” and I’ll get back to ranting about libraries, technology, and inclusivity really soon. ;)

I know from last time that I don’t stick to the plan all that well, but I vaguely recall some kind of warning in The Milepost (which I haven’t picked up a new copy of, yet) that vacancies along the Alcan aren’t a guarantee in August. So I split the difference and made reservations right up until the day I cross back into the US; from there, everything is an estimate, except Omaha, where I’m having dinner with friends. (* means it’s got a motel reservation or a dinner-with-friends attached)

The plan:

  • Sunday, Aug 17 – Tok, AK*
  • Monday, Aug 18 – Whitehorse, YT (386 mi)*
  • Tuesday, Aug 19 – Watson Lake, YT (273 mi)*
  • Wednesday, Aug 20 – Fort Nelson, BC (319 mi)*
  • Thursday, Aug 21 – Grande Prairie, AB (367 mi)*
  • Friday, Aug 22 – Red Deer, AB (377 mi)*
  • Saturday, Aug 23 – Shelby, MT (319 mi)
  • Sunday, Aug 24 – Billings, MT (305 mi)
  • Monday, Aug 25 – Rapid City, SD (316 mi)
  • Tuesday, Aug 26 – Sioux Falls, SD (347 mi)
  • Wednesday, Aug 27 – Omaha, NE (185 mi)*
  • Thursday, Aug 28 – Columbia, MO (316 mi)
  • Friday, Aug 29 – Louisville, KY (383 mi)
  • Saturday, Aug 30 – Charleston, WV (247 mi)
  • Sunday, Aug 31 – Charlottesville, VA (249 mi)

I’ve done a version of this drive before (also by myself, with one fewer bird — we didn’t buy another, we rescued him! from a street! in Anchorage!), and I remember that, by the end, everyone in the car was pretty tired (even the houseplants were wilty). I managed it in 11 days because, well, I had less north-south distance to cover; also, I did a couple of near-double days, including the very last one, which was over 600 miles; and I drove too close to Chicago (oof), which shortened the mileage. Still, it was brutal. We’re all (except the new bird) 5 years older, now, so I’m not going to try to do that again; I’m actually trying to take it easy, throughout, which stretches it to 15 days. I give fairly low odds that I drive all the way into Louisville on the 29th, which is part of why the next day is so short. I’m hoping this is a high estimate, but I do have Labor Day for spillover, if I need it.

And who knows? I could get in the driving groove and go longer, some of these days, too.

Other than the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake, YT; the Edmonton Public Library; Trailhead Spirits in Billings, MT; and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in Philip, SD, I have no sightseeing planned. (I got half of those ideas from, whose coverage of the Lower 48 is good, though they’re spotty along the Alcan and don’t think it’s possible to get from Anchorage to Palmer, AK, which it totally is.) That said, I’ve recently picked up Ingress, so I’ll wander into all kinds of places of local interest, in search of portals, every time I stop the car. And I’m open to suggestions, provided they’re near where I sleep or they don’t take me away from my car for too long; I’m going to have to leave it locked and running, to keep the temperature steady for the birds. They’re really the worst copilots. But they’re cute.


Published inAKtoVAalaskaon a personal notetravel


  1. Hi Coral,

    I think we’ve met a few times in the past (I’m friends with Steve and Valette and married to Bearded Jon), but we’ve probably interacted more through Twitter than anything.

    Do you know who was at the Maker Faire from the University? They’re the ones who collect local ideas, then take it to a board, then somehow get money and award participants into creating their maker idea. I’m looking on the Maker website but cannot figure out who it was.


    • Coral

      Sorry, I don’t know.

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