Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Of all the roads I've traveled...
This is happening outside our home today, finally after eight months of lane closures, detours, and orange cones. The activity this morning resurrected a vivid memory.
On July 2, 1970 I was a passenger in my ex-husband's, Army seargent's brand new Mustang. He and my husband had 14 day leaves. Sarge invited my husband to split the cost of gas and drive home with him, since we lived in neighboring towns. He insisted I fly home (to show off our new baby girl.) I insisted I wanted to ride with them. He complained but relented. The maniac drove the winding, gravel Alcan Highway all the way across country to the Midwest at speeds of 85-100 mph in 2 1/2 days! We stopped once to rest a few hours in the car, in front of a gas pump, waiting for morning until the gas station opened, so he could refuel and take off again.
Crammed into the back seat with a week old baby who was strapped into a solid, hard plastic pumpkin seat on my lap, I prayed and worried. No room to move, no voice to demand the maniac stop for my much needed potty breaks. It was a ride from hell.
On a two lane mountain pass, he blew past a semi. The wind force blew the rear car window in on me and the baby, sending safety glass shards everywhere. We were unhurt. But the maniac driver, spun a U turn and chased the semi, until I cried and begged him to stop. He stopped at a restaurant/gas station where I bathed our newborn in a bathroom sink. She wailed and broke out in hives. I cried, she cried, inwardly Sarge was probably crying for allowing me to come along, because the car seat handle was rubbing the paint off the interior of his new baby. We were all a mess.
Upon our return to Alaska to finish my husband's tour of duty, he received notice he would be released in early November instead of December. When October arrived with fierce winds and freezing temperatures, and the need to replenish the fifty gallon diesel heating fuel drum, I just wanted to go back home. I missed my mom, our home town, the bakeries on every corner, the paved streets to push my baby in a stroller.
We said good bye to her daddy a month early and bought a plane ticket home. With a baby bed packed in a box, a dog in a crate, and our daughter in my arms, I took my last trip up our Alaska gravel road.
As I looked back on the eight ramshackle trailers, side by side in a rainbow of colors, I watched the heavy equipment workers paving our road. My final image is of the asphalt being poured, the fire underneath the paving equipment and the steam roller drawing up the rear.
Funny, now that I think about, my first ingrained image of Alaska is the firey sun in the midnight sky as I flew into the Fairbanks airport 110 miles from School Road in Delta Junction, and my final image of our gravel road was the fire beneath the asphalt paving equipment.
Of all the roads I've ever traveled in my life, School Road resurrects the most emotional memories: it's where my best friend and I walked everyday as expectant mothers.
Today I travel a path towards yesterday and miss my late friend Sheila.