Alaska. The Frontier with a capital “F”. My images of the Great Land were shaped by Jack London’s “To Build A Fire” and the television show “Northern Exposure”. A land of extremes inspires extreme stories!
My first visit to Alaska was in January, 1992, in the middle of dark winter night. I was flying to Japan with my Army Reserve unit. We had a 4 hour layover at Elmendorf Air Force Base. I didn’t know if I’d be up again, so I took advantage of the time to explore. It was a clear night and a full moon. The mountains were lit by the moonlight and covered with snow. It was amazing. And just to punctuate the evening with a final exclamation point, there was a meteor shower. I was hooked.
I graduated from The Evergreen State College later that same year. I spent the next two years in Seattle working temp jobs and traveling. In 1994 I saw a newspaper ad for Alaska driver guides with Holland America Line. Here was my ticket back to Alaska! I drove one summer in Anchorage or as I like to think of it, I got paid to see Alaska. I drove to Fairbanks, Denali, Seward, Whittier, and Valdez. It was a memorable summer, and now the hook was firmly set.
The next couple of years I worked seasonally for Holland America Line as a driver guide trainer and safety supervisor. I learned much and continued to be paid to experience Alaska. In 1997 I was hired to manage Gold Dredge Number 8, a historical gold mining attraction in Fairbanks. It was an adventure from day one! Now, I got paid not only to live in Alaska, but I got to live in a 1920’s miners’ bunkhouse, run a new, startup tour operation, buy gold from miners, and learn how to drive a Caterpillar front end loader.
After four years as Dredge Master, I was promoted to Fairbanks Division Manager. I oversaw a fleet of 35 coaches, the guest services team, and the Yukon Queen II boat operating on the Yukon River. During this time I also earned an MBA degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The company provided a tuition reimbursement benefit and the winters are long, cold and dark in Fairbanks. Why not get an MBA?
In 2006 I was promoted to Regional Manager and moved to Anchorage, Alaska’s Downtown. It was nice to be back in the “Big City”. It’s all relative in Alaska. In this role I was overseeing the Holland America Line operations in Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks. I was blessed with a great team of dedicated managers who loved serving our guests.
The Alaska visitor industry has given me much over the past 17 years. I came to Alaska for adventure and travel. I stuck around, found an amazing wife, earned a master’s degree, learned a profession and have made some great friends. I am still extremely satisfied helping our guests experience Alaska. The joy they receive from having a truly relaxing, once in a life time experience in the Great Land is the best reward for me.