F is for Fairbanks, Friend, and F**ck!

A dog's view from the "Top of the World" Highway...how many smells are within his reach? 

Fairbanks is a town in Alaska. There are paved roads, houses with indoor plumbing, the gravity is on at all times, and the likelihood of seeing a human person in the city limits is 100%. At least, we found it to be that way.

Before we made it to Fairbanks, we camped by a lake near Denali National Park for two nights. We were told of alien activities in the area which had attracted the attention of “scientists” and their mysterious “equipment”, which we could see from the van. A curious local told us something had fallen from the sky recently, and “scientists” showed up immediately after to do “research”. He also said the patterns on the surrounding hills, which were made by stands of short birch and willow trees interrupted by rolling tundra, had been seen to change, sometimes reading like messages...some of those had looked to him like Hebrew.

Of course, being a devotee of ignorance, I scanned the hills in vain, searching for yet another message to completely fail to understand. I may or may not have seen that message, because I got nothing from watching those hills, trying to read a little something special. The only message I got out of the experience was the one I imagine all birch and willow stands have to say; “This whole damn experiment is out of your grasp, dummy!”

Also, when we took a walk the following day, we got a close-up look at this “equipment”. I'll drop the quotes now and just tell you, it was actual scientific equipment. The tundra upon which this equipment rests, and the measurements it is meant to be taking, are all directly linked to the effects of a changing climate on deep-earth temperatures under the tundra. The equipment did have one hilarious feature built-in though. One piece was equipped with some sort of proximity alert device, which would make a buzzing noise, just loud enough to scare anything which got too close, like a bear, or a little dog who wears a tie.

Thinking about the phenomenon of alien sightings, and our fascination with otherworldly visitors made me ask myself some fairly obvious questions.

  1. Why do we assume so many unidentified flying (or crashing) objects are from other planets?

  2. If so much of the world we live in is beyond the limits of our senses (think ultraviolet or the range of smells available to a bear or a dog), why wouldn't a UFO be something from this planet?

  3. Perhaps what we perceive as aliens could be phenomena which we are mysteriously and suddenly able to briefly witness with our limited senses?

As far as I can tell, the answers to those questions are all the same; we don't know.

I do know that the idea of a realm, largely outside of the range of our many senses (there are quite a few after the big 5) made itself something of a theme over the latter part of our Alaskan Journey. I'll tell you about that in a bit. First, I'll tell you about our time in Fairbanks.

We headed to Fairbanks to meet up with our pal, Shooter, who was flying in at 1 AM on Saturday. We got into town a few days early to TCB, and to meet up with a friend of the show, Gary Toth. Gary reached out to us about three months ago, after hearing us on Dr. Chris Ryan's podcast, and invited us to park in front of his house. As it happened, when we decided to visit him, he was fairly occupied with other things.

Gary's brother and his grandnephew were visiting, and one of Gary's two dogs had just given birth to 4 little puppies. In-spite of all of this, Gary felt taking on two additional visitors and their little dog would not cause any trouble, and told us to come on over. We did.

Our first evening at Gary's was great; chatting with Gary and his family, and holding tiny Doberman puppies. The little puppies were beyond adorable. So adorable, in fact, we completely forgot about the camera-phone in our van and took a grand total of zero pictures.

Gary's wife takes an impressively “hands-on” approach to the breeding and raising of these animals. By “hands-on”, I mean the only thing other than dog nipples touching those little creatures are hands...human hands...and super often.

Gary and I took a little trip down to the van, smoked some incredibly powerful pot, and talked about philosophy, meditation, psychedelics, and travel. I knew I wanted to have him on the podcast, so I asked if he would have time the following day. He invited us to join him, his brother, and his grandnephew on a tour of an antique car museum the following day and said he would have plenty of free time after to chat with us. His only request? “Get a hold of some 'Cave Man Coffee', for inspiration.”

The Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks is not to be missed. It doesn't matter if you don't give a shit about cars, machines, or museums. There is something for you at this museum, unless you just hate being in buildings in general.

The oldest vehicle in the place is a 1930's Packard. With just about every vehicle display (I think there are a few dozen of them), you will find a beautifully curated mixture of period-appropriate clothing, informational kiosks, and other charming artifacts from the time of the vehicle's use.

There are several mechanics on-staff, some paid, some volunteering their time, a fantastic shop where they maintain, and occasionally drive, EVERY vehicle in the collection! The shop alone was worth the $10 for me, as they not only rely on their own ingenuity and creativity to maintain these vehicles, but they also have to fabricate a staggeringly large number of parts from scratch. Imagine having to make a replacement part for a vehicle built in 1910, with only the broken part for a template!

After the museum visit, we agreed to meet Gary back at his home. We parked, set up the mics, busted out the coffee, and got to business. We ended up talking so long that my computer battery began dying. We paused, sorted out a solution (plugging into the van's inverter causes an annoying sound to register in the mics...feel free to write-in if you have any suggestions as to how I might remedy this), and kept on going. We ended up talking for over three hours.

The topics of conversation ranged from his own personal history to following a child guru, to living in a spiritual community, to (you guessed it!) the existence of other realms of reality which we fail to perceive with our limited senses.

 Chatty Kathy meets Chattin' Katherine!

Chatty Kathy meets Chattin' Katherine!

At a certain point in our conversation, I noticed that Gary's phone was buzzing frequently...buzzing in the unmistakable way which suggests the person on the other end REALLY wants you to answer and knows you are ignoring the call, so they call back again, right away. I'm fairly certain, Tiffany and I were the only ones to pay it any attention, once Pelé realized that it was of no consequence to him, of course.

Gary paused at one point to run inside and grab his laptop so he could read to us something he had written. When he came back, he told us he was in trouble with everyone in the house, as they were waiting for him to eat. He promised them he would only be about ten more minutes. Twenty-five minutes later, he interrupted himself and broke from the written narrative to just tell us the story. His phone continued to buzz throughout the reading.

When Gary left the van, we felt a sense of relief. Not to have him out of the van, as I would have enjoyed talking to him for much longer, but to have the building pressure in the house finally relieved...or so we thought. About two minutes after going inside, Gary reemerged with his brother, got in his vehicle and drove off.

Tiff and I agreed we should take off without delay. We started packing up our gear, and about five minutes later, Gary and his brother returned with armloads of to-go food. He began to head inside without speaking to us...a sure sign of a spouse outside of the normal operating range of happy. Tiff, Pelé and I stopped him to thank him, and tell him goodbye. About one minute into our salutation, with his dogs standing on the deck above us, barking at Pelé, Gary's wife exploded onto the scene and literally screamed, “Gary, she's had about all she can take!”

At that, Gary turned around without a word and walked back inside.

I'm not certain if she was referring to herself in the third person, or if she was expressing the exasperated sentiment of the mother of the puppies who was barking at Pelé. In any case, we found the best course of action was to fuck-straight-off and move our little party elsewhere.

We picked up the dog, got in the van, sent Gary a sweet a text, and started to leave. Gary reemerged and was able to give us something of a goodbye. We drove off, happy to only have our own domestic entanglements to unravel.

From there, we had to wait it out in Fairbanks until Shooter arrived.

Shooter, for those of you who do not know him, is not a small man. In fact, he is a big man. To be more specific, he is Six feet five inches, and 260 pounds of loud talking, Italian/Irish man. Having this much additional man and luggage in our van for the next five days would be a fun challenge in good weather...in rainy weather it would prove to be a somewhat less fun challenge.

The first night, we drove, at 1 AM, from Fairbanks to about 45 miles north of Denali National Park, where we hoped to be able to do some hiking before it started to rain. We made it to a flat and safe place to set up a tent, and Shooter walked off, looking like one of the bears we had been warned about since entering Alaska.

The next day, we had a great breakfast at camp, and I found an extremely cold stream to jump in and bathe. From there, we made our way to a grocery store, and Shooter bought six bacon wrapped filets, and three ribeye steaks, and about as many groceries as we can fit in the van, then headed to an area south of the National Park where we could camp for free, and maybe take a hike.

We cooked all of the meat in one sitting, so we could have leftovers to make things with the following days. Unfortunately for us, and ultimately for the cows from whom they were involuntarily taken, the rib eyes tasted like wild game. The upshot of the bad meat situation was Pele's meals got a great deal more interesting for about a week.

We cooked, talked shit, smoked some good old California pot and enjoyed the last non-rainy moments we would see for the next three days. After our meal, we took a brief walk around the campground and had to hustle back to camp when the rain started to come down in sheets. We sat together, in the van, all four of us (Pelé counts), and yammered the night away.

The rain would continue to fall for the next three days. We took the briefest of drives into the first fifteen miles of Denali National Park and saw one sad old moose, and about twenty cars, trucks and busses. We saw the little museum inside the visitor center and took a soggy walk along the only trail Pelé was allowed to travel.

We stopped by a hostel earlier in the day, who had lost power, and rented a room which we hoped would have power when we returned. As it happened, power had been restored, and the place was a delight. The room Shooter rented was small, but looked like a gigantic version of our van. We sat in there, listened to music, chatted, and listened to the rain. Later in the evening, we sat in the common area and struck up a conversation with a few of the other travelers.

One of them was a woman from Beijing (where Shooter had been for the Olympics), named Fibi. Fibi was a trained biologist who had improbably studied in Monroe, Louisiana many years ago. She was an absolutely adorable human being. Her most unique quality was something of an open fascination and obsession with a spiritual teaching by yet another guru who, as you may have guessed, was able to heal others through his unique access to an unseen realm of reality wherein he could pluck a troublesome organ from an ailing patient, and wash off cancer cells like dirty melons from a grocery store bin.

After a brief chat with Fibi, we collected our little dog, leaving Shooter to enjoy his room. We were delighted to have the sound of the rain on our roof and slept like we deserved it.

The following day, the rain persisted, so we decided to do indoor activities. Tiffany and Shooter both felt like day drinking. Tiffany suggested the 49thState brewery, which I'm sure is a really cool place with nice beers and some sort of aioli based dips or sauces on the menu. I don't drink, so going to a nice bar has little value to me. If we were going to a bar, I would rather go to a dive, in search of characters. Tiff and I had seen one on our trip up to Fairbanks in a little town called Nenana. A consensus was reached, so we made our way to there. 

When we pulled up to the bar in Nenana, I knew we had made the correct choice. Outside of “Moocher's Bar”, a patron was crossing the street for his own day-drinking. We asked if he knew if it would be cool to bring the dog inside. He laughed, and said, “as long as he's old enough to drink!”

Moocher's is one of the few remaining places in the US where you can smoke cigarettes indoors. When you approach the entrance, you can literally smell the lack of regulation from the street. Other lax regulatory statutes make themselves apparent as soon as your feet touch the floor...it is buckled and wavy as if the floor itself has had a bit too much to drink. We were told later that someone had hit the other side of the building with their car, and had “...severely fucked up the building!” They weren't kidding.

The crash had caused not only the floor to buckle, but the ceiling to shift uncomfortably. It also may have had something to do with the fact that no less than five balls were missing from the pool table (including the cue ball), and completely prevented the bartender from informing me of that when she made change for a dollar.

Watching Pelé play in an old dive bar was a treat for me. He bounced around, sniffed the day-drinkers, was afraid of the toilets, and almost as befuddled by the pool table as I was. He also had some popcorn.

What the car crash failed to do was dissuade the cadre of about 7 delightful weirdos and characters who were drinking and chatting. I say about 7, because the bartender, who was also operating the attached liquor store, was also taking breaks to sit at the bar next to a guy we later found out was her father.

It was her father that I ended up chatting with. After a while, I asked him his name, “I'm K. John. I was crazy John, but a buddy of mine shortened it, and it stuck.”

K for crazy...I'd found my people. All he had to do was keep from mentioning some other realm, and I knew we'd be fine.

Instead of “otherworldly” topics, we discussed a variety of super heavy “this world” topics. K. John is a veteran, a California native who moved to Alaska after the war, and does everything he can to stay, “North of the Alaska Range. I came here to die.” He told me.

We talked about the war for a bit. He had seen some incredibly heavy action and was one of thirty-six men to survive from his company. He said there had been over two hundred men in the beginning. “I'm not here because I'm brave. I'm here because I'm a coward. All the brave guys are dead.”

Our discussion of the war was heavy for him, and when he felt strong emotions, he told me. “Shit, man. You've got me shedding tears. I haven't thought about this shit in a while.” If you are wondering, these were not the tears of old drunk at the bar, rambling on about the war. These were the tears and deep emotions of a thoughtful man who allowed his mind to rest briefly on an old wound.

We spoke about politics for a bit as well. “I fucking LOVE Donald Trump!” He told me. Even though I've been living in the Bay Area for the past several years, and dislike having to call him the president, I am never bothered by people who support Trump.

When I do have conversations with someone who supports Trump, I always ask the same question. 'Are you happy with the way things are working out?' I'm careful to not phrase it in a way which could be misconstrued as condescending or patronizing. I'm genuinely curious, and just want to know how someone in possession of those beliefs perceives the current landscape.

Invariably, the answer is neither a straight yes or an emphatic no. In K. John's case, he compared the American political system to the mafia and suggested that we finally had the right guy at the helm for that type of organization. Regardless of whether or not you accept that analogy as true, if you follow his logic, he isn't wrong. I actually enjoyed that portion of our conversation and was able to keep my own opinions from getting in the way of an otherwise good time. In fact, I continue to enjoy the luxury of being able to keep my cosmically meaningless feelings to myself.

The conversation eventually drifted, the way it tends to do in a place like Alaska, to hunting and fishing. I told him I hadn't caught any salmon, but that I really enjoyed a few “pinks” I had been given in Hope. “Pinks?!? YUK!”

“We feed pinks to the dogs! I'm a red man, myself.” He told me he was planning to go upriver to his fish wheel to collect well over one hundred fish. When I asked what a fish wheel was, the conversation took an even more delightful turn; he invited me to see one. He also offered us some frozen fish.

When we paid our tab, after personally eating about half a pound of the stale and salty popcorn on the bar, we followed K. John in the van, as he drove his 4-wheeler along the river to show us a fish wheel. If you've never seen a fish wheel, they are basically a floating apparatus, tethered to a river bank which uses the flow of the water to turn a large wheel full of baskets and angled chutes to capture fish and guide them into a giant wooden box on the side. These things are capable of catching thousands of fish and need to be carefully monitored while in the river, and removed when the harvest is complete.

From the fish wheel, we followed K.John to his home, where he showed us true hospitality, generosity, and a uniquely good time. First thing, he rolled up a joint and invited us to sit with him. We smoked and talked about his home, winter, and his amazing wife. We did not have the pleasure of meeting this woman, but we were told about her feats of strength, and how she had won a competition by pulling a heavy sled across a great distance.

After getting nice and stoned, he showed us around his home, indulging our relentless questioning. He showed us over twenty different guns, and a variety of furs, including fox, wolf, and a bear (all killed by him). Before we left, he opened his freezer and gave us a large package of moose back-straps, some smoked salmon, and some king salmon filets.

As much as I wanted to get him on the podcast, I passed on the opportunity, and just enjoyed the time we spent with him. Meeting him was something I will not soon forget, and I am as grateful or the opportunity as I am grateful for the moose and salmon.

 “I'm not here because I'm brave. I'm here because I'm a coward. All the brave guys are dead.”  - K. John

“I'm not here because I'm brave. I'm here because I'm a coward. All the brave guys are dead.”  - K. John

From Nenana, we headed north, to Fairbanks. We stayed the night outside of another of Shooter's rooms for the night. This one was near the antique car museum, which we, unfortunately, did not revisit. We did manage to go eat at one of nearly twenty Thai restaurants in Fairbanks that evening. It was incredible.

The next morning, after breakfast, we headed off to Chena Hot Springs to camp, cook our moose, and soak in the springs. We ended up doing most of that. We stopped on the way up there for a lovely hike up to a rocky ridge which overlooks the river valley below, and the mountains surrounding it. It was a beautiful hike I would recommend to anyone planning on soaking in the spring.

Shooter declined to camp outside, in spite of the first nice weather we had seen in several days, and got a room in the lodge. We did manage to cook that moose, though.

Moose, unlike deer, has an almost sausage-like quality to it...just without the fattiness of pork sausage. It is gamey but not too gamey. When grilled over hot coals, and then covered with melted and salted butter, the flavor is smoky, savory and just plain delicious.

We spent the better part of the next morning at the springs, where Shooter declined to join us in a soak, preferring instead to sit alone and read. Tiffany took a walk and invited Shooter to join her. He declined that as well. We got the hint, Shooter was ready to go. Five days with me, for anyone is quite a lot to endure. Five days, in a van, with me is something I marvel at Tiffany for being able to endure in such large doses. I don't blame Shooter for wanting to be alone.

I was also ready for Shooter to go, as two people and a dog is already a crowded situation in our little home. The addition of another person for so many days was not the best plan. The last evening of Shooter's visit, I actually got pissed off at him and had a confrontation.

Handling confrontation is not exactly something at which I excel. In fact, I'm horrible at it. My pulse speeds up, I start to sweat, and I get incredibly anxious. Typically, I go to great lengths to avoid it. I'm overly polite, I let go of quite a bit, and I tend to bottle up my frustrations in a large reservoir which rarely reaches capacity. My reservoir, on the last night of my friend's visit, was full, and my ability to let shit go was greatly diminished.  

I dropped a giant turd in the middle of our relatively trouble-free punch bowl, and by suddenly displaying such a drastic change in character, completely shattered the otherwise pleasant nature of our visit. Such is the price one pays for being a human with an ego.

Shooter and I said goodbye that evening after he declined to let us take him to the airport the following morning. We were in less than great spirits. For the first time in our fifteen-year friendship, I was angry with him, and it showed. I'm sure he was angry with me as well, but he gave me a smile I didn't recognize and we parted ways.

I don't really know what to think about our interaction. I am conflicted by my feelings, and very much dislike feeling like an asshole. On the other hand, I also disliked the situation I found myself in with my friend.

Looking back on it now, I should have taken the same approach I took with K. John and his support of Trump. Instead of having a big, dumb confrontation with a good friend, I should have asked him questions about the nature of what was making me angry. Instead, I reacted with the force of a dam breaking on an emotional reservoir and did my part in creating unnecessary tension with someone I truly care about.

This journey is one of continuing education for me. I hope I'm paying attention.

Sometimes, you just fight over nothing.  In fact, maybe we exclusively fight over nothing?

The morning of Shooter's departure, we had plans to visit one of our Patreon supporters, and a friend of the show, James. James has been in touch with us since we began our journey, and even offered to help me get my Alaska massage license so I could pick up work in his office (James is a chiropractor).

Our communications with James have been very friendly, and have had a very professional quality to them. He offered to help us out with any adjustments to our necks and or spines. As much as I wanted to take him up on that, I knew Tiffany needed some deep-tissue work on her neck, back, and shoulders, and I needed to practice my massage skills, so I asked if we could instead borrow one of his massage rooms so I could work on her.

James not only said yes, he also let us use his large washer and dryer to do our laundry. After an hour of massage, we took James out for breakfast and found him to be one of the kindest, warmest and most interesting people we had met in a while. He invited us over for dinner to meet his wife and her young son that evening. We accepted, and are so glad we did.

Amber and Dominic, James's wife and her son, are incredibly wonderful. Amber is an Alaskan Native of the Yupik people. She has been competing in the Native Games since she was a young girl, and has won many competitions. Her son Dominic is a sweet, playful and very smart little man at the age of six!

They fixed a delicious dinner, complete with wild blueberry cupcakes, and Eskimo ice cream! James prefers anonymity, and understandably declined my invitation to be a guest on the podcast. Fortunately for us, Amber was willing, and she let me harangue her with dumb questions while Tiffany entertained Dominic.

Her episode will be out on August 28th!

Dominic, Amber, James and Zona the dog

Spending time with James and his fantastic family in their simple yet beautiful home was a wonderful experience. We slept in their driveway that evening, full from a delicious meal, and glowing with gratitude for the opportunities made possible by this strange journey.

From James's driveway, we began the long journey South. Fairbanks would be our Arctic Circle, our Prudhoe Bay, our northern-most point. From there on, we point the van South.

On the way out of town, we stopped in a little town called Salcha, AK to meet with another Patreon supporter, Nate. Like meeting Gary and James, I'd been looking forward to meeting Nate since he reached out to us.

We met Nate on something of a high from visiting James, and a strange low from my weird interaction with my old friend Shooter. My emotional state was deeply conflicted and left me feeling tired. When we arrived, Nate was waiting for us on the road leading to his home. I could tell immediately that we were in the company of a kind and gentle soul.

We were eager to continue south, as the weather was nice, and we had a ton of miles to cover before the weather turned. With that in mind, we hadn't planned on staying at Nate's home and were thinking of getting further down the road while the conditions were good. The scenery had been fantastic, and we wanted to see more. In retrospect, this was an error.

Nate's story is a fascinating one. He has lived all over the world, worked as a geologist, and in various capacities for the armed forces. I kick myself for not sticking around to record his tale while at his home. In addition to Nate being an all-around cool guy, he is also grooming his place to be a campground for travelers to the north. We sat with Nate, drank some coffee, looked over his view of the Salcha River, toured his cozy and rustic cabin, and smoked some beautiful, Alaskan pot. The caffeine, marijuana combo for me is powerful, and the urge to drive was pretty strong. In any case, I should have stayed there, and pulled out our gear in the morning. Instead, with the promise of a southbound journey burning in our veins, we set off after sharing a coffee and one of Nate's perfectly rolled joints.

At some point in the future, I would like to return to the frozen north, to see what winter is really like. I will make a point of visiting Nate again.

Our pal Nate at his home in Salcha, AK!

The only upshot of making decisions on impulse is the way in which it makes you available to other serendipities, like chance meetings, and random moments in nature. While mining the hills of impulsivity, this time we hit solid-impulse-gold!

Out of Salcha, we camped by a beautiful river, with the snow-capped Alaska Range in the distance. We watched, humbled by our abject tininess as the peaks seemed to change color every time we looked up from tossing sticks with Pelé. The next morning, we had three goals to reach by the end of the day; Breakfast in Tok, a walk in a town called Chicken, Alaska, and day's end in Dawson City, Canada.

At breakfast, in a place called Fast Eddy's, we drank about forty-five cups of coffee and ate a little bit. We spent a little time there, researching the route (Tiffany), and wandering around with the dog (me). As soon as we were ready, we made our way south and east.

The road between Tok and Chicken is not kind for a vehicle like ours, but it is quite beautiful in the rare moment you feel confident peeling your eyes away from the road will not lead you into a giant, axle-breaking hole. The town of Chicken, however, is worth the drive.

Chicken is a town which physically, mentally, spiritually, and metaphysically just cannot take itself too seriously. Once you latch onto a name like Chicken, your fate is sealed. Gigantic metal chickens are compulsory, so are fowl-puns, egg-jokes, and a variety of other bird-specific themes. The public toilet even has a large painting of a stressed-out chicken, standing in the familiar ankles crossed way which tells the world it clearly needs to take a piss.

A chicken in Chicken, AK.

It was in this goofy little town that I heard an incredible voice coming from the front porch of a restaurant with an impressively chicken-centric menu. That deep, sonorous voice, complete with rhythmic Latin overtones and cadence, belonged to a guy we had seen eating breakfast in Tok.

I need to confess something; I am a compulsive eavesdropper. I blame it on having been a bartender for many years, which tuned my ears to listen out for people who needed a drink. In reality though, I also just liked listening to what people had to say. I like a story, and eavesdropping is a great way to hear stories without polluting the stream with my presence.

I was practicing this skill in Chicken when the owner of that deep, latin voice was singing his tune. I heard some keywords; photography, Miami, Alaska, motorcycles, travel, and Dawson City. I bided my time by visiting the pissing chicken shack.

When I returned from the piss palace, I saw the guy with the deep voice, as he was preparing for departure next to what was clearly his beautiful BMW touring motorcycle. As I approached, I noticed he had a Brazilian flag sticker on his fuel tank, as well as a sticker for what I later would learn, is his website – ricardoserpa.com

After a few moments of speaking with him about his plans, a bit about what he was doing, and where he was going that evening, the conversation turned to us. Ricardo asked what we were doing. I wasted no time, and told him I was there to do exactly what we were doing, meeting people who do fun and interesting things, inviting them to sit with us in our van and asking them a series of increasingly stupid questions. I then asked if maybe he would like to join us for dinner in Dawson City, and maybe be on the show. He said yes, and that was one of the last things I would truly enjoy in Alaska.

We agreed to meet him in Dawson, later that evening and said our temporary goodbyes. “See you there,” he said. It sounds so innocent and easy - “see you there.” However, when “there” is Dawson City, and you are in Chicken, innocence, and ease is not in the forecast.

We took a small walk around the debris field in Chicken, which is dispersed around an old river dredge, and found the atmosphere to be quite lovely, and strangely idyllic for a place that can experience 50 below zero. After our little trot around the detritus, we hopped innocently into our little van and pointed the nose towards Canada, and the “Top of the World” highway.

About 10 or so miles from the border, the road goes from pretty shitty to beautifully paved. I'm not sure who is kidding whom, but I wasn't buying it. That nice little stretch of road, while a welcome break, seemed like one country was fucking with the other. In any case, it didn't last long.

I did manage to accidentally insult the border crossing guard, mercifully it was after he had handed me back our passports and told us to drive safely. I thanked him, and said, “Don't ever dye that beard, man. The grey looks cool.” What I didn't realize, was that the guy I had perceived as having a lovely black beard with little bits of grey at the top, had been dying it black for years, and the little grey bits at the top were the roots! Clearly, I don't know how hair dye works...

At any rate, he dropped his smile and waved us along. My own smile was not far behind him in the dropping game, because the road, in spite of being situated on a beautiful ridge, which rolls along for miles this way, was about to go from perfectly paved to apocalyptic, tooth-filling rattlingly shitty.

We traveled over this road, which I later learned is closed in the winter (for good fucking reason), for hours and hours. I seriously started to lose my mind. The front end was squeaking so badly, that I pulled over and re-greased the ball joints. At one point, as we rattled over a particularly bad stretch of pothole-filled road, I slammed on the breaks, just hard enough to send all of the shit in our closet, crashing to the floor. I was so tweaked out with irrational worry for the condition of our vehicle, that I had to take a bit of a fuming stroll around a rest-stop before I could manage to get the grease-gun out and take care of the suspension.

From the "Top of the World" Highway.

It took me a while to remember how useless and soft it was to be complaining about how “rough” the road was treating me. It took way too long to realize I could instead consider the following; our machine is carrying a beautiful mattress, warm blankets, plenty of good food, fresh water, a wife who loves me regardless of what an idiot I can be, a fun loving dog who just wants me to love him, and a litany of treasured belongings in the van, too numerous to mention. It does all of this, over terrible roads, through heat, cold, rain, or sunshine, and only asks that I remember to give it fuel, and look after it when it needs something (which has been a mercifully rare occasion). In exchange for that, this machine has taken us over ten thousand miles so far! I have precious little to complain about.

This lack of things about which to complain brings me back to thoughts of realms which operate outside of our perceptual range. I tend to worry about things which are beyond my control, and I find myself caught up in a whirlwind of negative emotions and worries about the future, the past, or the ineffable nature of consciousness.

I should consider my troubles with the flow of time or the nature of consciousness the same way I should look at the way I fret over rough roads. I should take those bumps and potholes as frequent reminders to be grateful for having a vehicle, without which I would not perceive them. I should visualize my concerns for the bumps and potholes in my perception of reality, as reminders to be grateful for having a mind without which I might actually get bumped off the road.

However, sometimes it just feels good to get mad at nothing. To shake a fist at the sky, and grit my little teeth together in an impotent display of useless rage at no one. It feels good, not because it is effective at creating change in any given environment, but because it creates a change in me. To exhaust that sort of toxic rage, the way our fantastic machine exhausts the unburned carbon atoms in the diesel fuel I feed it. To roll into and over those pointless moments, the way our tires roll over and into the pointless potholes... You just do it. You do it every day. Eventually, you can't do it anymore, and the game is over. The trip comes to an end. Then, you get your answers. Until then, you eat, you move, you experience, you exhaust, and you roll along, red with rage, or red with delight. The choice is probably yours.

 Adiós Alaska!

Adiós Alaska!

 

 

 

 

Andrew CouchComment