Update: We Officially Live in Alaska

*I wrote this last Saturday, but didn’t have WiFi to publish until now, just FYI!*

Holy macadoodle. We’re here. As in, Alaska.

Guys. This is a real picture of when a bear cub climbed into the produce at the grocery store in Ketchikan.

Guys. This is a real picture of when a bear cub climbed into the produce at the grocery store in Ketchikan.

I thought I’d have a moment or two to write while we were on the road, but turns out that driving cross-country for 12 days isn’t really a “plenty of downtime”-type travel situation.

Now that we’re in Ketchikan with no furniture, WiFi, OR cell service in our home (fun times), I really don’t have anything better to do during Anders’ naptime than to sit on our living room floor, look out the window at our gorgeous view of water and steady stream of float planes flying by, and catch everyone up on our adventure, thus far. 

To answer your burning question (jk no one cares that much) about how Anders did in the car for such a long trip, you’ll be pleased to know—or disappointed if you hate me—that he was a champion. I actually think driving helped him slowly adjust to the four hour time difference, so that was an added bonus upon arrival. Beyond his excellent sleep adjustment, he found a rhythm in the car and was either asleep or happy the vast majority of the time. Once in a while he’d be impatient or frustrated, but the screaming or crying was truly bare minimum.

It wasn’t always easy, but I’m very proud of us for driving from coast to coast without any screen time. NO JUDGMENT to families who use portable screens, but at this point it’s almost like a personal game with myself to see if we can survive without them. Plus it was really fun to see what sort of car games we randomly came up with as entertainment that we may never had developed if he’d been otherwise occupied. My favorite was “smush,” when Anders would randomly yell or sweetly whisper “smush!” from his car seat, which was the cue for Aaron or me to reach back and smush/tickle his belly (if it was a leg when both adults were sitting up front).

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The stops along the way were a blast, of course. We saw Aaron’s family in Ohio, then the Children’s Museum and Navy Pier in Chicago, Zombie Burger in Des Moines, The Great Plains Zoo and Falls Park in Sioux Falls, Mount Rushmore and the cute town of Keystone, SD, Yellowstone National Park and the stunning Dude Ranch where we stayed in Montana, our one chill night in in Spokane, WA and the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. 

Favorite part, you ask? I have a few, duh.

The first was the random livestock competition we stumbled upon when looking for a rest area in nowhere, Iowa. It just felt so ‘Iowan’ to me…the perfect spontaneous memory for a road trip. Anders moo’d at all the cows and had a blast running around all the pens with fancy ducks and goats.

I also was obsessed with the dude ranch we booked in Montana. The mountains and early morning dew and horses was simply magical. Anders became obsessed with the “nayyyys” as he called them, and I only wish for that moment I hadn’t been pregnant so I could’ve gone on a trail ride! Oh, and the food there was insanely good. I had elk picatta the first night, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

It’s hard to choose between so many amazing memories…the bison right next to our car in Yellowstone, sneaking Noma into Mount Rushmore, watching Anders’ obsession with rocks everywhere we’d go, wandering around the famous Wall Drug Store in South Dakota…honestly, the whole trip was a blast. I’m not just saying that.

Oh, bumps in the road? Those existed, too. Like the night in Sioux Falls when Anders screamed his head off in the hotel because he couldn’t fall asleep, and it took us over an hour of trying everything under the sun before he went down. Or the night in Montana he randomly woke up wide-eyed and bushy-tailed at 2 a.m., and it took an hour before he went back down. Neither of those were absolutely terrible, but yes, there were moments he strayed away from his usual state of perfection.

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The biggest setback was that our final leg was completely cancelled due to the Alaska Marine Highway strike. We were supposed to drive our car onto a gorgeous car ferry for a mini-cruise that would take us straight to Alaska, but we ended up having to ship our car (bye bye $1.1k) and fly from Seattle to Ketchikan instead.

That was a big hectic, as Aaron had to repack the entire car to fit shipping standards, then we were trapped in the airport for 3 hours before our flight left. BUT on a very positive note, it meant arriving two days earlier than expected, and getting to experience the Blueberry Festival in Ketchikan, which all the locals have said is one of the best weekends of the year! This morning we drove from our house into town (a total of 5 minutes) and wandered the tents, had blueberry lemonade and blueberry brownies and yummy street food, watched the blueberry pie-eating contest, and found some gorgeous home décor for our new pad.

 All in all, 10 out of 10, I would drive cross-country with this little family of ours again. Yes, even pregnant. Yes, even with a toddler and a puppy dog. Yes, even in the middle of the blazing hot summer. The memories are invaluable, and the way it brought Aaron and I even closer (which I thought was impossible after child birth) was truly special. It takes a lot of teamwork, a lot of Disney sing-alongs, and a lot of quietly hiding in the corner of a dark hotel room at 7 p.m. while the baby falls asleep to successfully pull off a trip like this with your spouse. We not only survived, but we thrived. Guess road trips and Disney Cruises are our thing! 

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Speaking of Aaron, he’ll be home any minute from Walmart (basically the only store in Ketchikan) with some folding chairs so this pregnant lady can get up off the floor. So I’m going to run. But everyone come visit soon! Once we have some furniture, this house is an absolute dream. The second we pulled into the driveway, we saw two giant bucks not 50 feet away, and a bald eagle flew right over our heads. And then our landlord told us what to do when the bears show up in our backyard. GULP OMG. Anyway, thanks for all the well-wishes on this exciting new chapter in our lives! It’s happeningggg.

Shannon Leyko