I wrote this essay the day after I drove the McCarthy Road for the first time. That was in August 2001. The images are from the last ten years of driving this road including yesterday.
I start out going ten miles an hour down this dirt road that will lead me to McCarthy, Alaska. I can do this.
I can do this. Even though I know the clanking tire jack in my backseat is there only for making music–I cannot change a tire. The D, as in dog, I received in Driver’s Education marred my high school academic record in a way I never fully recovered from. And perhaps, it is a true reflection of my abilities in that department.
I can do this. I can drive down a dirt road that leads to the soul of Alaska. I’m not afraid of no dirt road. Not this hip mountain momma. Although I do deeply wish I’d worn a sports bra.
This dirt road is simply hours out of a day spent moving slowly. It’s what it takes to get there.
I listen to Michener’s Alaska on the tape player. Missy, the strong female protagonist of Michener’s narrative, crossed the Chilkoot Pass, looking for gold in a skirt, on feet, I do believe. I’m looking for riches too. I’m ready to mine what I find at the end of this dirt road.
The car bumps. I bounce. And my odometer says I’ve covered three miles of dirt in ten minutes. In the beginning, I thought I’d get there in time for dinner. I am strong. I can do this. I eat my rations and change my aspirations. If I get there by dusk, I’m doing good.
I think about travel and try to refine for myself this tired metaphor. You’d think we humans would have evolved, found some other way of explaining what life is. Yet, we return again and again to this notion of journey, of travel, of going somewhere else.
Always in the hopes of finding ourselves along side the road, or if worst becomes reality, and the road ends, we meet a maker with a discernible answer concerning what this dirt we’ve been moving over is all about.
How did I get to this junction? This particular dirt road? How a did a girl, this me, ever close the door on a childhood lived in a rundown ranch style home in Kansas, walk to the end of a gravel drive way, and look west and then north, only to find more gravel?