Traveled so many times
I Can't Remember
How Many

by Becky Cowen-Cornelius
(Anchorage, AK)

My family's first trip on the ALCAN Highway was in 1961-62. I was 8-9.

Mom, dad, brother (5 years older), and me.

We were moving to Alaska!

My dad had been up to Alaska when he was in the Air Force and thought Alaska would be a great place to raise us kids. Every couple years we would drive out on the ALCAN to visit family in Virginia, Texas, and Louisiana.

We never flew out of Alaska as a family. We always drove the ALCAN Highway.

I guess it was cheaper for the 4 of us to drive out rather than fly out. I never gave it much thought. As a kid, it was just another adventure.

We traveled in an old Nash Rambler station wagon, or a Chevy suburban and I always had the very back to myself. I loved it.

My dad always joked that I was watching where we have been as I always faced the back window.

On one of our trips, we actually ran into a forest fire. I remember fire on both sides of the road. My dad just kept on going. I thought we were surely going to be engulfed by flames, but dad said we would be okay and dad was always right.

One year we actually got 3 flat tires at one time. My dad had to walk a ways to the nearest gas station and thank God there was one reasonably close by, I haven't a clue what we would have done if there wasn't one.

But other drivers on the ALCAN were always very helpful to others. It was different back then.

At this particular time once my dad got to the gas station you can imagine his surprise when he met up with close friends of our family that happen to be at the same gas station dealing with 4 flat tires. Long road, small world.

On the ALCAN Highway there are many small signs that read 3 killed here 1961, or 2 killed here 1963, etc. etc. Seeing these signs was very sobering. They were eventually taken down, but they were there quite a few times when we made the journey.

The ALCAN use to be very narrow with severe cliffs and straight drop-offs where the bottom was nowhere to be seen.

The constant dust was awful. We tried to keep it out of the vehicle using many methods, but it always made it in. My mom, who suffered from asthma, had a tough time.

There was not one time I ever remember not getting a broken windshield on any of our journeys. It was just the price one paid before the ALCAN Highway was paved.

Last time I drove out, I believe was in 1999-2000. There were 3 of us and a cat, dog and hamster. We all wrote daily in a journal that we kept. We had a great trip, stopping at many places along the way. No horror stories of incidents on the road what-so-ever. The road was in great shape, and it was smooth sailing.

I would travel the ALCAN Highway again.


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Comments for Traveled so many times
I Can't Remember
How Many

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Wonderful Story
by: Marci

What I love about this story is the contrast between the past and present conditions of the highway.

I bet that you have many more adventures to tell and would love to read them.

Thank you for these.

Gum and a Punctured Gas Tank on the Alcan
by: Becky Cowen-Cornelius

While reading another Alcan memory I remembered how we too, ended up with a hole punctured in our gas take.

We managed to keep it from leaking by sticking gum in the hole until we could get it fixed properly.

1960's Alcan Memories
by: Anonymous

We first drove the Alcan in 1962.

Dad was in the Air Force working on the Dew Line.

I remember the Alcan dust, dragon flies, trucks and finding fuel.

Later in life I drove it twice. I would never do it again!

After that Many Trips - You Know the Alcan
by: Michael

Great story Becky -

Back in the day when your family was driving the Alcan, it was a much more difficult and demanding adventure than it is today.

When I was a boy, I remember that if you pulled over on the side of the road, other drivers would stop and ask if you needed any help. It was the unwritten code of the Alcan back then.

The first trip we made from Anchorage when I was a young teen, we got about a mile into the dirt and gravel road and had our first flat.

On another trip, my wife and I were driving after dark and a big truck drove by us at a very high speed and showered us with gravel, breaking one of our headlights.

Today's Alcan with it's paved road and plenty of places to stop for gas, food and lodging is more of a nice, but very long, Sunday drive.

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