Tuesday, April 14, 2015

North to Alaska, Once Again

Spending time with our extended family always seemed to go by so fast, because visits were few and far between. However, as the day grew closer to leave on our trip to Alaska, we said our goodbyes and finished all our needed tasks. We had bought a new car, a tan station wagon, and decided to drive up to Alaska, up the AlCan Highway. That is a 4,370+ mile trip from Pinehurst, NC to Anchorage. Going at that time of the year was actually better on your car because the AlCan was all gravel, and tended to beat cars up pretty bad. But with the snow cover, it was a lot easier. This journey took two weeks.

We went through a great many states and while doing so, we all got sick. This was the time that the Hong Kong flu was going around. We finally stopped in Great Falls, Montana, at the Air Force Base located there. They had just had a major car crash and some very serious injuries and didn’t have time to look at us so gave us some medication and sent us on our way. Unfortunately, the medicine had codeine in it and therefore, mom and dad couldn’t take it and drive.

Shortly after getting on the highway we slid into a ditch. Now this could be quite scary because you never knew how long it would be before another car would come along. We were very blessed though because within a very short time, a snow plow came around the corner and was able to help get us out. We continued to move toward Anchorage, although not as fast as any of us would have liked.

We had a guidebook called The Milepost that we used along the AlCan, that pointed out all kinds of neat features along this 1200-mile road. Most importantly, where the bathroom stops were. It also had major landmarks, points of interest, historic sites, restaurants, etc. If you ever make this journey, do not leave home without it. They are constantly updating it.

Texas is a big state and Alaska is even bigger. When you reach the border, you still have a very long distance to get to Anchorage.  You can see from the picture below just how large it is. A lot of it is beautiful wilderness and is still uninhabited. I hope it can always maintain those qualities. It is a gorgeous state and if you haven't been there, put it on your bucket list. The cruises along the Inland Passage are nice but you really need to go to Anchorage, Fairbanks and Denali to get a real feel for what Alaska is like.  It is a must see!

Alaska compared to the US as a whole.
By the time we got to Elmendorf AFB, the rest of the family had recovered but I was still sick. I was running a very high temperature and felt horrible. We had been on the road for two weeks, were trying to get checked into temporary quarters, I was sick, and if that was not enough to deal with, as soon as we checked in, my dad got a visit from someone telling him that my mom’s dad had passed away while we were traveling north. We didn’t have cell phones then, and we never knew where we were going to stop, so no one knew how to get ahold of us. Grandpa Garrison was buried by the time we got to Alaska. A sad time for all but a very difficult time for my mom. 

My parents made several phone calls to the doctor, about my fever. They suggested that they put me in a cold shower to bring it down. Cold showers are no fun!  I was feeling so bad and had to do them several times and they didn't do any good. I would get in and the fever would come down for a short time and then go back up again. So they finally took me to the hospital. I ended up having spinal meningitis and was in isolation for a week. Only my parents could come in and see me and then they would have to be covered from head to toe. It was very contagious. It was a scary experience. I had to have a spinal tap, which was terrible. The doctors told me that I had to lay perfectly still. Not one movement or I could have bad headaches for a long time. Little did I know that my first real sight of Alaska would be from a hospital bed.

I remember when I finally got to go home, I was still pretty sickly and my mom would have to get up several times during the night to give me medicine as well as throughout the day. It took a long time to recover fully. I remember sitting in the apartment, in Muldoon, and watching all the kids playing, sledding, etc. on the hill outside and wishing I could join them. One of the first things I did, when I was able to go out was slide down that hill.  I thought it was so huge but on a trip back there, many years later, I found that it wasn't near as big as I thought.  

Our apartment was on the second of three floors.  
I had my first close up encounter with a moose while we were still living in this apartment. I guess it was foraging for food because he came right up to the apartment building. He was huge and I remember that mom and dad said to stay away from him, even if he looked docile, because they could turn mean quick. Especially the momma's with their babies.

Our next-door neighbors in the apartment were the Gaffords. Tracy and I became good friends. We were in the same 5th grade class at Muldoon Elementary. She had two sisters, one of which was in the same school, so my brother and I walked with them to school each day, about a mile away, even in the snow.  I was fascinated with the fact that she played the drums. I had never seen a girl play the drums before. We are still friends with the Gaffords today.

We moved onto Elmendorf AFB in the summer of that year, 1969. We lived in another quad on Apricot Street, at the opposite end from where we lived the first time. I think the address was 21-632 Apricot, Apt. B. However, someone said it is no longer called Apricot Street. Lots of things have changed since we left. Yet much is still the same.

Today's Terri's Tidbit: Help out future generations who may be doing your family's genealogy. When cutting personal events out of the newspaper, (or other periodicals) make sure to have the source data, for the article, picture, memento, with it. Either write it all down and attach with the article or make sure to cut the name, date, page etc. from the top of the paper you are saving. It will make it so much easier to find out more information later, if you are careful to gather that information now.

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