Monday, July 12, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 1: Durham, NC to Kettering, OH

We're back from Alaska! Not only was it an incredible trip, but absolutely nothing went wrong! My car probably needs new tires by now, but I was due for a new set of tires anyway, so that's no big deal.

It's going to take me a while to recap the entire trip (possibly longer than the trip itself!), so here are some overall impressions while everything is still fresh:

- Alaska is awesome.
- The drive there and back is also awesome, if you're into that sort of thing.
- My favorite day of the trip was our day in Denali National Park.
- I wish we could have had more time to spend in the Yukon and northern British Columbia.
- Except for a hellacious stretch of the Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and the Yukon/Alaska border, the drive really isn't that difficult.
- Alaska is really far away, but that's part of its appeal.
- Total driving statistics for the trip: 9,756 miles driven, and 159 hours of driving time. All crammed into a 2½-week period.
- Other various trip-related statistics are slowly making their way onto By the Numbers. I should have all trip stats posted by Wednesday or Thursday.

Of course, before I can post all of Amber's pretty Alaska pictures, we have to get there first. And since chronological order is the most logical way to present the trip, I guess that means I have to start with the least eventful day of the trip, Day 1. (Sorry.) My original intention was actually to not recap Day 1 at all, but it was surprisingly eventful, and we got to see some old friends along the way, so...let's do it!

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Alaska Trip, Day 1 (Thu Jun 24): 504 miles; 8 hr 1 min

North Carolina

I didn't expect to see or experience anything even remotely notable on our drive through North Carolina. I mean, how many times have we done this drive? But then, this giant shopping cart appeared on I-40.

What is this? Why, it's the "Got to Be NC Big Cart"! The "Big Cart" is promotional vehicle (literally) for North Carolina agriculture. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler: "Finally, there's a grocery cart big enough to hold all the delicious food we produce in North Carolina. It's like a monster truck for groceries." To Mr. Troxler: I don't remember if I voted for you in the last election, but if I didn't, I should have.


This is a scene I was expecting to see repeatedly along the Alaska Highway, not in Virginia. And what are we doing on a two-lane road in Virginia, anyway?

Well, you see...there was a very long backup on I-77. According to my phone's Google Maps traffic info, the traffic jam was over 10 miles long, extending from Exit 14 (US-58, Hillsville - point "B" on the map) to north of Exit 24 (VA-69, Poplar Camp). Once we saw the beginning of the backup, we bailed to the US-52 alternate route - something it seems like we have to do at least half the time when we go this way - and encountered this construction scene.

Even with the construction, I'm still convinced we saved 30 to 60 minutes by bailing. But we'll never know what caused the backup in the first place. Google Maps doesn't have all of the answers, unfortunately.

West Virginia

I don't remember anything interesting happening in West Virginia.


The original plan was to stop in Chillicothe for the night, but then Daniel and Katie (friends we knew from our Penn State days) offered to let us spend the night at their house in the Dayton suburb of Kettering, and that worked out great. (Thanks!) We left work at 1:00 PM that afternoon, which was a little earlier than originally planned, so driving an extra hour or so to get to Kettering wasn't a big deal at all.

(Side note: That picture is from Amber's camera; the first two were from my phone. The vast majority of the pictures to come will be from Amber's camera, meaning they will be of much higher quality than the ones I posted on Twitter/Facebook in real time during the trip.)

So, that's Day 1. No snow-capped mountains yet, but every road trip has to start somewhere.

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