You Can Go Home Again; Just bring some extra socks.
It is hard to pass up a chance to go home again. A chance to see what is new and what has changed, who is new and who is still there. To visit with all your old friends and get a chance to say goodbye all over again. So when the chance came for me to make an impromptu trip back to Alaska, I jumped on it, even though I had relinquished all my cold weather gear prior to my departure.
Now if one was to schedule a rare trip to Alaska, generally they would be looking at June, July or August. Also, generally they would avoid January and February, as they tend to be the coldest, darkest, most miserable months of the year. Naturally, my trip was scheduled in February. Not only is it cold and dark, it is also covered in snow and the roads are often like ice rinks speckled with chicken playing moose. Given the fact that I had not driven on ice for well over a year, and that my driving habits had quickly degraded to the level of a local Tico, I was slightly concerned, especially when I found that I would be driving a studless two-wheel drive Camry. I was right to be concerned.
First and foremost, just prior to my arrival, the state had been mired in a deep freeze averaging temperatures well below zero for a month. For bald men, this is a problem. However, the day we arrived the temperatures started to rise to well above zero. I theorize that as soon as Dorian and I stepped off the plane, Alaska sucked the tan and warmth off of our skin and released it directly into the atmosphere. Instantly 30-40 temperatures.
Yes this is better than -30, however if you have not lived in a state like AK, then you do not realize what comes with warm days and freezing nights, and that is the aforementioned speed skating roads. Literally roads of ice, covered in a thin layer of water to aid in the release of any possible remaining friction. In fact this time it was so bad, schools were closed and roads were closed. Four-wheel drives were ditched in attempts to climb the hills home and every available piece of unfrozen dirt was spread to give back some of that lost friction. A normal Alaskan winter, and a perfect day for a 3 hour drive to Soldotna.
All in all the driving came back to me pretty quickly, especially with the front wheel drive. I did however get the obligatory rock chip on the windshield, something that I have not seen since I left.
There were a lot of things I observed about myself while in Alaska.
1. I drink a lot more coffee, I mean 2 to 3 times as much as I do in Costa Rica.
2. I take a lot hotter showers. Long, very hot, to the point of the pointless shower sweats.
3. My feet are always cold.
4. My skin is always dry and flaking off my body as if it wanted to remain in AK.
All that being said, it was well worth it to see family and friends. It was great to visit and share, even though I was sharing the same things over and over again. It was great driving through my favorite coffee stands, going to Fred Meyer’s and most of all it was awesome to spend time with Jo. She has gotten so big and had some many stories to share. She has become quite the dresser as well. I was glad to see her healthy and having a lot of friends. I was also very thankful to find that our friends were helping to take care of her, our whole church in fact. She is covered in love in our absence.
I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see, I didn’t get to eat with everyone I wanted to eat with, I didn’t get to spend as much time with those I wanted to spend time with, but it was still worth it. I got to spend a lot of time with some awesome friends and family, and I especially enjoyed the hospitality of the Brown’s and Davis’s as they opened up their homes to me and Dorian. It was much better than any 5 star hotel I could ever find on Priceline.
I got to enjoy the beauty of Alaska again, despite the miserable roads and the bitter cold ( anything below 50 is bitter cold). It felt natural to be amongst the camo and Carhart laden people. To see the bunny boots, parkas hats and gloves, to defrost my windows in the morning and truly appreciate that first piping hot cup of coffee. It was normal to slow down a little as I came upon a trio of moose anticipating the quick road cross, and even the inevitable rock to the windshield was just like old times. And other than my feet freezing the whole time I was there, it was like slipping on an old pair of socks, I just wish that they had been thick wool.
It is good to go home again, if not for the land, for the people. Although next time, I hope I see more of the green land, more of the golden sun, and more of the hearty people.