76: Alaskan Adventure

76: Alaskan Adventure

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Alaskan Adventure

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.

~G.K. Chesterton

He wanted to go to Alaska, and he couldn’t go alone. My father had been stationed there while in the Army, and now, so many years later, he wanted to go back, this time for pleasure. But an illness in that same Army led to the eventual loss of his hearing, and now his near deafness made traveling alone virtually impossible.

Naturally he turned to his family for company on the trip. My brother and sister had summer obligations already that year that caused them to decline. My mother didn’t like to camp and preferred desert heat to glacier ice. So he turned to me and I enthusiastically signed on. A lover of the outdoors, I looked forward to the adventure — three weeks of driving and camping up the western edge of North America, this back in the days when most of the highway to Alaska was still just a gravel road. We planned to leave immediately following my college graduation that June.

There was just one problem. I got a job. Not just temporary summer employment — I was hired by a privately-owned paper company for a position from which I could travel the career path I’d mapped out in college. My new employer wanted me to report to work immediately and I promised to show up on time, mentally canceling the trip to Alaska.

Taking the job was the logical thing to do. It didn’t make sense to go to college for four years, endure the strain of countless job interviews and then turn down the very career opportunity I’d been looking for. There would be other vacation invitations from my dad. Accepting the position was the right course of action for this time in my life. At least it seemed to be so . . . until I saw the look on my father’s face when I gave him the news. All of a sudden the decision was settled in my heart rather than in my head. I simply loved my dad too much to put my choice over his.

Without another word, I called my new boss and explained the situation. If he couldn’t hold the position for me for the three weeks I’d be traveling, then he’d simply have to give it to somebody else. I knew he wouldn’t have any difficulty with the latter choice — career opportunities in the field of forestry at that time were few and far between, and there were many more job applicants than positions available to them.

It turned out to be the right decision. That trip to Alaska was absolutely incredible. The scenery seemed to get more beautiful with every passing mile. We ate meals at the side of beautiful lakes or in little diners we found scattered along the side of the road. Camping was a constantly challenging but enjoyable adventure as we learned how to set up our tent in record time during thunderstorms and dressed like space aliens in the mosquito net hoods we wore to protect us from the swarms of pesky insects.

We conquered the worst the Alaskan Highway could (quite literally) throw at us — the stones that cracked our windshield and popped our tires, the bugs that were soon plastered over our windows, lights and radiator grill. We even learned to sleep when the sun was still bright in the nighttime sky. And our excitement mounted as we drew ever closer to our destination, until we were cheering wildly as we crossed the Canadian border into Alaska.

But the best part of the trip wasn’t the incredible scenery or our activities along the way. It was what happened between my dad and me. We bonded in a way that I doubt we ever could have had we not traveled the Alaskan Highway together. Not that everything between us went smoothly from the start. I was a difficult traveling companion at first. I was terribly homesick for college life and the friends and good times I’d left behind. I’m also sure I felt at least a little bit of resentment over having to put my own plans aside to accommodate my father’s. I freely admit I wasn’t much fun in the early days of the vacation, but my dad waited me out. Thankfully my moodiness didn’t last long. It was impossible to resist the beauty surrounding me, the adventures awaiting me, and the father’s love enveloping me. Soon those long periods of moody silence in the car were replaced by jokes and laughter, stories and tall tales galore, hours spent studying maps, taking naps or stopping for snacks. I loved it all.

I look back on that trip now, and rejoice again at the wonderful time we had together. I shudder to think of what I’d have missed had I insisted on keeping my own plans for that summer. As it turned out, my employer did hold my position open for me, and I worked for that company for eight wonderful years in various capacities before moving on to other opportunities.

When I chose to honor my father’s wishes above my own, I truly got the best of both worlds.

~Elaine L. Bridge

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