South From Alaska


I was born a nomad.  In my forty-two years I have lived in 18 different homes in four different states and yet I feel like I’ve been stationary my whole life. My feet get the urge to wander and my family knows it’s time when I start thinning my belongings to a manageable heap.

So when we bought our 40 acres three years ago and began to create a life, a homestead, a permanent abode, my family was a little hesitant to believe I’d last. Well, there is still no place I’d rather be than right here in my cabin. No, really. 

But sometimes life changes your plans and the best thing to do is let go of the reigns and see what happens.

My mom-in-law turns 80 this year (I know women don’t like their age broadcast but I think 80 is something to shout about) and we’ve not lived near her for more than 20 years.  And so when the cabin didn’t quite reach the stage you might call, “remotely close to finished”, and we realized our feet may freeze to the floor if we stay still long, we devised a plan to spend the winter in the southern states so our kids can get to know the grandma they’ve been deprived of all these years.  

I’m gonna talk shop-lingo like a girl for a minute…be patient.  About a month ago the husband and the boys pulled the motor of the truck to replace the Timing Chain Cover because it was cracked and leaking oil. Leaking oil by the gallon equals not ready to drive 3500 miles.  In order to replace the timing chain cover, they had to pull out the entire motor so they could drop the oil pan and get some tube out of the oil pan. Thanks to Youtube, they found a way they could only ‘Lift’ the motor a ways to get the oil pan off, thus not having to remove the transmission, an act which makes the husband cuss like a sailor.  Okay, so several long days of greasy work and they put the whole thing back together.  We started the truck, nothing leaked, everyone is happy. 

SO, then we spent the next few weeks working on the interior. We pulled the seats; pulled old carpet and Rhinolined the floor, replaced the headliner; put new bucket seats up front; ran an external heater to the back seat; new speaker wires, etc. It looked beautiful and again, everyone was happy.

We we’re about five days shy of the husband going back to work with plans to leave for California the day of his return, when we started the truck. Uhoh, oil everywhere.  Hours later we tracked to leak to a missing seal. Again, most of the motor was disassembled, the leak repaired, the entire thing put back together. Woohoo, we said, we are going on vacation!

Again, we started the truck and took it for a test drive. A mile down the road we pulled over, looked under the truck, and a long stream of profanity flew from both our mouths. Oil, all over the road.

Upon investigation we discovered the oil pan was had sprung a leak. Or three.

Long story short, we dropped the six door off at Elite Diesel in Soldotna, Alaska and said, “Forget it…you fix it.”

The husband left for work and I called in an order for an oilpan via a local parts store who at this point, I am sure would like to remain nameless. But since the following was not their fault…it was the Soldotna Napa.  ‘The oil pan is a week out,’ they said, ‘coming from Kansas.’ And because we live in Alaska we are used to that. NO problem. The husband was gone to work for two weeks anyway.

And a week went by. Then ten days. I called Larry at Napa, who by this time recognized my voice. Larry did some dialing and found my oil pan has taken a little trip of it’s own. From Kansas to Idaho….to Alabama (twice) to Memphis Tennessee and had landed in Jacksonville, Florida. Cool. Trying not to freak out as our window of opportunity flies out the window, I called Keith at Ford in Kenai who assured me he can get one out of Sacramento the following day.’ Woohoo,’ we said, ‘we’re going on vacation!’

Now I’m sure the conversation between Keith from Ford and Blade from Elite the following day was more of an argument over who was going to call me, the nagging wench who harasses them on an hourly basis to finish her truck because the cabin is getting colder and smaller by the day. But Keith must have lost the toss because he called to tell me…my second oil pan had been sent to the wrong dealer. 


I called Larry at Napa, “Did my oil pan happen to arrive from Florida?” I asked.  “Sweetie…” said Larry, “I don’t think you are supposed to leave Alaska.”   Bite me, Larry, I’m outta here one way or another.

I slept on it, letting Larry’s words sink in. Maybe the auto parts guy was right. Maybe all these issues were a sign. I’ve been following signs for years and it’s always worked out, but my drive to get south was stronger than my brains at that point.  So when Keith from Ford called me the next morning to say he’d managed to get me a third oil pan all the way from Sacramento in less than 20 hours, I wanted to kiss him through the phone. Kudos to Keith! It pays to have childhood friends in high places.

Four days in the shop and the engine was out, fixed up, and put back in place. Yesterday (Friday Nov 15, 2013) the truck came home. Since we’d spent a month or more preparing, the cabin was ready, the kids were packed, and all was in place for the trip. We spent the day playing a giant game of Tetris with the kids/dogs/cats/stuff in the truck and left half of it behind on the floor of the shop.  A good nights sleep and we were ready to roar at six this morning.

And then we saw the giant puddle of antifreeze pouring from the bottom of the motor as it warmed up in the dark driveway.. The husband high tailed it to our shop six miles away, the boys snapped into action as well-trained shop technicians, and half an hour later the leaky hose was back to work.

Meanwhile, the girls and I packed up our three dogs and two cats into their cubbies amongst the luggage. Nermal threw up all over my camera bag and Beezie is in heat…but other than that they appear to be handling the drive so far.

We hit Anchorage, then headed up the Glenn Highway towards Tok where we will spend the night. I’m typing this as the sun sets behind us and the moon reflects off snow coated spruce in the distance.  One long day nearly down, six more to go.



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12 Replies to “South From Alaska”

  1. I dearly hope it’s smooth sailing the rest of the way!! Blessings on your journey! Can’t wait to hear the next installment 🙂

  2. I think I will have to read this two more times!! You have SUCH a gift
    Great truck—-and truck story—-my son just dumped 5 qts of oil on his way here yesterday with his diesel….dropped a few more in my driveway before figuring out what was wrong….I will read him your story! 🙂

  3. God bless all, even Nermal & Beezie! You need to carry a big can of bicarbonate of soda. It absorbs smells like up chuck on it’s own and you know that with white vinegar it will have your camera bag looking good again.
    Have fun everyone love from us down under in NZ/Aotearoa

  4. “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” is a poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien for his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. It alludes to an integral part of the plot. The poem reads:

    All that is gold does not glitter,Not all those who wander are lost;The old that is strong does not wither,Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

    From the ashes a fire shall be woken,A light from the shadows shall spring;Renewed shall be blade that was broken,The crownless again shall be king.[1]

    The poem appears twice in The Lord of the Rings’ first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring. It appears first in Chapter Ten, “Strider”, in Gandalf’s letter to the hobbits in Bree, before they know that Strider (Aragorn) is the subject of the verse. It is repeated by Bilbo at the Council of Elrond. He whispers to Frodo that he wrote it many years before, when Aragorn first revealed who he was

  5. Y’know Keri, it wasn’t funny until I read the part about Nermal and the camera bag, and Beezie in heat. Safe travels, my friend, you have had troubles enough for one trip! Stay in touch with us!

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