With our last hike completed, it was time for us to be on our way to Anchorage, where we had booked our flights to take us home. Tim brought us some coffee, drove us to Ester on the outskirts of Fairbanks, and said a prayer for us before hugging us goodbye. We waited for a while outside of the gas station near the halfway house, and eventually, a red Jeep with two fairly stoned young people and their dog, Grizzly Bear, picked us up. The driver had been travelling across the United States over the last ten years or so, and basically lived in her car as she is a self-declared nomad. She took us to under a bridge in Nenana where she let Grizzly Bear run around for a bit, which instead, seemed far more interested in our roast beef sandwiches we were eating than his prescribed exercise time. We continued with the three for a while until Miner’s Market at Healy, and grabbed a coffee before settling down next to the road.
Not long after, a blue Subaru picked us up and drove us a few miles to McKinley Park. After, a white pickup with a white dog to match pulled over and drove us a few miles towards Cantwell. It wasn’t long again until the final ride we hitchhiked with stopped. It was a big pickup with a camper in the trunk, and he immediately offered us granola bars and some snacks. He introduced himself as Bob, and over the next few hours, we got to learn quite a bit about him. He had hitchhiked a lot when he was younger, including travels across China and Southeast Asia right when Tibet opened up. As we were approaching Denali State Park on the way to Anchorage, he spotted quite a few blueberry pickers and decided that he would enlist our help to pick some fresh berries. 1 hour later, we had filled about the equivalent of a full Ziploc bag, which he decided would be great for now. To thank us, he gave us a can of salmon which he smoked himself for us to snack on. We basically inhaled it since it was truly fantastic.
Continuing down the road, we stopped by the Alaska Veterans Memorial. Bob’s father had served in the Navy, and to commemorate his service and all others in Alaska who served on submarines, Bob helped to create a monument to their service. We checked this out and stopped at another nice viewpoint over Denali on the way. Bob took lots of photos of us. After, he offered to buy us dinner and we shared our stories at Hacienda Mexican Restaurant in Wasilla. We said bye to Bob after he dropped us off at our Couchsurfing host’s place, and invited us to his home in Soldotna should we ever find ourselves back in Alaska. Our final ride represented every hitchhiker’s dream: food, great stories, new experiences, a ride straight to our destination, and an invitation to stay with him. We are thankful that we got to meet him because it was a great conclusion to our fantastic experience hitchhiking across the Americas.
Our time in Anchorage was short, but it was successful for what it was. We met Jim, our host, and his three very excited dogs that night and spent a little time with him the next day. We borrowed his car so that Emily could mail some final postcards out, buy a coffee mug, and buy some smoked salmon for her parents. Another Couchsurfer, Gerrit, picked us (turns out he lives 100 yards away from Jim) and drove us to Moose’s Tooth for some Alaskan pizza. We met Sean again there so we could give him back his bear spray since he couldn’t travel with it on his flight, and his Arctic Circle certificate. After some nice topping-rich pizza, Gerrit dropped us off in his very hip camper van in downtown, and we began our search for some art for Laurent’s parents. Since we had 4 hours before our flight (which is a lot in downtown Anchorage), we could spare the time to take the free trolley to the Ulu Factory (which we spent a total of 3 minutes in…it is just a tacky gift shop), claim all our free gifts from a coupon book (truly terrible souvenirs), and browse for some art. Eventually, we found a couple of soapstone statues at Arctic Treasures, just in time before Gerrit picked us up.
We decided to go to the airport 2 hours early since we found it is better to allocate extra time to anticipate any monkey tricks the customs officials wanted to pull on us. Sure enough, there was a problem with the computer, and for a bit, American Airlines couldn’t print our boarding passes. At the same time, the agent told Laurent that the Canadians require an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) from Europeans, and we frantically applied for one online because Emily couldn’t bear parting ways with Laurent just yet. Luckily, the boarding pass printed, and Laurent got his ETA approved immediately, so after passing security, we headed straight for the Silver Gulch and had a beer. Before we knew it, we had to chug the rest of our beer and get herded through the cattle of passengers towards our seats. 5 hours later, we arrived in Dallas before it was 6AM.
Since we had a 12 hour layover in the barbecue state, we decided to finally fulfill our task of eating Texan ribs. We took the DART to the city centre, had a coffee, took a picture of a big eyeball sculpture, and sat in one of their nice parks until Off the Bone opened at 11AM. We then made our way to this industrial looking part of the city and were first in line to eat a rack of ribs. It was absolutely fantastic and mouthwatering. The ribs were smoked and seasoned perfectly, and were definitely the best ones we have both ever eaten. With that completed, we headed back to the airport for our flight to Toronto.