Packing = Play. For some.

This post marks the first in a series of stories about our post-retirement van adventure from Ohio to Alaska and back in summer 2018. By the numbers: 13,016 miles. 118 days. 19 states. 3 Canadian provinces. 2 ferries. 0 motels. And only one marital spat. (But that’s a story for a later post.)

Packing. Some people’s idea of play. Me, not so much. So it’s a good thing that my husband, Jim, loves to. He retired from his nursing job a month before I was done teaching, which gave him time to pack and repack our 2007 Chevy van a dozen times before we hit the road. He tucked toothbrushes and toothpaste into Styrofoam by the sink. Created a snug spot for our favorite grill pan for sourdough pancakes above our bed. And hung the broom and dust pan near the door. In short, one OCD packer in the family is a good thing when preparing for four to six months van camping.

On the other hand, I had maybe a day or so after turning in grades to toss my clothes into my allotted 1 ½ x 2 x 3 foot compartment. The key was to take fast-drying multipurpose items. I recently found my packing list. Honestly, what was I thinking when I packed four jackets and a down vest? I never pulled out the long underwear, wool hat or sundress. As photos will show, I apparently wore the same hoodie and shorts all summer. But I’m glad I took Gore-Tex pants, which saved me in a day-long, cold rain in Seward, Alaska.

One major planning oops: A good roadmap of Alaska. But, come on, we’re not dinosaurs. Old people use printed maps. But we soon realized that we would rarely have cell service in Alaska, and thus no Internet to plan routes or Google Maps to get us there. Good thing there are not that many roads in Alaska but there are lots of visitor centers offering free maps. I remember the shock in a fellow camper’s voice in Smithers, BC, a launching point for travelers heading to Alaska: “You don’t have Mileposts?” she asked, pulling out her highlighted Bible of all travel planners. But I don’t like travel guides, specially not ones that have mile-by-mile entries for some 15,000 miles.

If this journey was to be about anything, it was discovery. Studying what I was about to see outside the van windows sounds like work. Not play.

So, off we went to Alaska, via Boulder, Colorado, and Sante Fe, New Mexico. I told you we needed maps.

Want a tour of our van and how it’s packed? Check out Syd and Macky’s YouTube video here.


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