Trip of a Lifetime: A 3,400-mile journey---from Anchorage, Alaska to San Francisco, California
By Leopoldo (Chito) Elago III
Map courtesy of MAPQUEST
Editor's Note: Chito spent two years in Anchorage, Alaska. A registered nurse and still single, he moved to Hayward, California five years ago. Here's the story of his seven-day, 3,400-mile journey---from Anchorage, Alaska to San Francisco, California. CLICK HERE TO VIEW LARGER VERSION OF MAP
Not long ago, if you asked me to drive from Alaska to California, I would have thought of it as something outra-
geous. But I've accomplished this travel and never regret it for
a moment. There were a lot of things I have learned and disco-
vered during my seven-day trip. However exhausting it may have been, it was worth the experience.
I was apprehensive at first because driving from Anchorage to San Francisco is a 3,400-mile journey. But after talking to people who have commuted the same route, my fears were allayed. Most Alaskans in Anchorage originated from the lower 48 States and therefore travel frequently by land, with some even coming as far as Texas and New York. I figured, if my truck is in good condition, and if I just drive carefully, then everything should go well. So then it was final, I decided to leave at the end of July.
Day 1. After packing all my household goods in my pick-up truck, I bid my farewell to my cousin Carol and Sonny Valdez. So off I went Northbound on Glenn highway towards California, stereo blasting 70’s disco songs. At the end of the day, I reached the last town in Alaska, a city called Tok.
It was still bright in the evening. You see during the summer months in this arctic region, the sun is still up until about 11 p.m. So I decided to continue until I got to Beaver Creek, the first town after crossing the Canadian border in the Yukon region of Canada.
Day 2. I was up early at six a.m. and feeling excited to see the Yukon territories. Amazingly, I was on the road in thirty minutes; breakfast, shower, and all. Indeed, the scenery was just too spectacular that I can’t even describe in words how beautiful it was. I could see seemingly endless mountains rolling up and down, the clear blue open skies above, the smell of fresh pine scent, and the glittering crystal clear waters.
Anyone who saw this sight would surely marvel at the things nature has given us. By noontime, I was getting hungry. I looked at the map and saw the nearest town coming up was Destruction Bay. A very intriguing name, I remembered saying to myself. When I got there, it was again one spectacular sight. I marvelled at how clear the water was and its crystal emerald color.
This lake was huge. I mean, I was driving for about forty minutes at 100 KPH and all this time, the lake was at my left side. I don’t know why, but I suddenly remembered Sucabon River in Zamboanga and how dirty it was with all the ‘basura’ from the squatters. I never did find out why it was named Destruction bay.
Day 3. I woke up feeling kind of sore. I was now thinking I still had several days ahead of me and whether I made the right decision. I frowned on that thought and started doing stretching exercises to prepare for another driving onslaught. By early afternoon, I was getting bored hearing the same music over and over again. So I decided to stop on another scenic site, Muncho Lake.
There were a few people gathered there taking pictures. I asked a guy on a bike to take my picture with the lake behind me. Striking up a conversation, I asked “how long have you travelled”? He hesitated for a moment but answered “5,500 miles”! “Wow” I exclaimed, “ that’s a lot of mileage…. and how long have you been travelling?” I added. “Hmmm… about 2 ½ months now” he replied. I was speechless with all this. I couldn’t imagine anyone being able to accomplish such task.
Maybe he’s one of those guys at the Discovery Channel I thought. We chatted for sometime and I learned he comes from New Foundland and has travelled all the way here by bike.
The whole day I kept thinking about that biker and how he could have accomplished such a feat. I started analyzing that the Western world has come a long way because of how they believe in themselves in being able to accomplish their goals in life. From mountain climbing to scuba diving, they have proven that nothing is impossible. Now if only Erap Estrada can come out of his short sightedness in making money for himself, I thought. Oh, I’m starting to daydream. I looked at my watch, it was already 8 p.m.. Time to call it a day.
Day 4. It was hard to get out of bed because my back was starting to ache. So I did the usual stretch, took a hot shower, and Tylenol for pain. “What would you like for breakfast?” the girl asked me at the cafe. “Do you have anyhing with rice?” I jokingly said. I think just about everyone, the ‘hash- brown-continental-breakfast-eaters’ inside the restaurant turned around to look at me. “Well” I said, “ I haven’t eaten rice for four days now. I’m merely eating just so I won’t die of starvation” I told them. Everybody laughed. “Oh you poor thing” the woman exclaimed.
Day 5. This day was a hard one probably because of fatigue. I seem to be focusing on all the negative things: My front view mirrors was full of dead bugs, the entire truck was covered with dust, and the music of the 70’s are now a nuisance for me. Even the roads soon became a blur. It was nothing more than lines and passageway for my truck.
Suddenly it struck me out of nowhere. I realize I can do anything I want. There are no deadlines I have to meet. I can stop and relax or eat anytime. No rules! So then I did exactly that. I ate when I was hungry, rested when I felt tired and slept when I felt like it. It was fun!
“Citizenship?” the immigration officer asked. “American” I replied. He waved his hand to signal me to pass through. That was it! This was a far cry from my earlier days coming into Los Angeles airport where endless questions were asked. Well, this was my fifth day on the road, I have just crossed the U.S. border, and California was just two States away. I called up my childhood friend Ramon Lucas to tell him that I was in Washington.
After obtaining directions, I finally arrived at his home at ten in the evening. Well as usual, our conversations were about other Zamboangenos. It started out with the some formalities, but ended up as the usual ‘liyos’ stories.
Day 6. This morning I was ready to go but was persuaded by Ramon and his wife Jean to stay for a while and see the city. Well, unfortunately it was raining so I decided in the afternoon to continue my trip through Washington and along Oregon coast. It sounded like a good idea but when I actually got to Oregon’s coastal highway, it was nothing like the California scenic coastal drive. The road travels through a lot of small towns and the marine coast was far from the main road.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So then I got off the winding coastal road and transferred to Interstate 5 highway. As I reached Portland in the evening, I called my cousin Noli Bucoy in San Francisco just to give him my estimated time of arrival.
My long journey was finally coming to an end. However tired I felt, I decided to continue on and just stop to rest when I felt like it. It was in one of those rest stops that I heard a woman exclaim “Alaska?” while looking at my license plate. I quickly smiled at her and proudly answered “yes… Alaska”. Now I remembered my reaction to the biker at Muncho Lake when he told me how far he had travelled.
After driving for several days, it didn’t matter to me at this time how scenic the route was anymore. The lifeless desert and plains along I-5 highway was insignificant now because all I wanted was just a comfortable bed to sleep on. This was my seventh day of travel and I had no intention to extend it to another day. It was a scorching 100 degrees along the California desert that day but as I arrived in San Francisco, it got to be
Day 7. “Welcome to San Francisco” my cousin Noli said. At last, I said to myself, I finally got to my destination! In retrospect, I am certainly glad that I took that trip. The experience I gained from this journey has made me look at life at a different perspective now. It may have been exhausting and difficult at times, but one thing is for certain, I not only enjoyed it, but it was a journey of a lifetime for me!
Copyright 2006 Click here to write Chito Elago