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Kristen- Juneau Driver Guide

by ATJ Posted in I ♥ Alaska, Off the Clock, Only in Alaska |

Juneau highway

The fall foliage around Juneau rivals any region in the country (Source: Planetware)

I’m not joking when I say that driving has always been my biggest fear. As a kid I wouldn’t even drive the family tractor around the farm, and at sixteen I would have been quite content to delay taking driver’s ed until at least 18. And now I am driving motorcoaches and absolutely loving it.

Having graduated from Western Washington University, I was now in the “what am I going to do next in life?” phase. I had several friends who had been drivers in Juneau, and encouraged me to check out the recruiting booth for Princess Cruises and Holland America Line- Alaska/Yukon on campus. More to please my friends than anything else, I decided to go interview with Christa Hagan, the logistics manager of the Juneau division. As the interview progressed I found myself becoming more and more excited for the adventure of Alaska. Suddenly, I was hired, and told I’d be starting CDL training in just a few months.

The first time I sat in the driver’s seat of a motorcoach I felt shaky. “There’s no way I can do this,” I thought. But very quickly, I understood the movement of the coach, and driving became enjoyable. On occasion my trainer would have me put the headset on and give him tours of Bellingham where we trained. I gained confidence that I could not only drive a coach but also entertain passengers.

I passed my CDL exam and two weeks later flew up to Juneau. Immediately I was taken aback at the stuning beauty surrounding Juneau. Within the first week, I rode along with another driver on a tour. The next day I found myself at the very same dock, but this time for my own tour. I remember pulling back into the dock to drop my guests off after the first tour and feeling such an incredible sense of accomplishment. Not only was I driving a full sized motorcoach, but humoring my guests as well, and having a great time myself.

My Alaskan Adventure has been more than just working though. I took a weekend to explore Haines for the Alaska State Fair. The following week, I ferried to Skagway and took a bike trip up to Whitehorse with a friend.  Twice I’ve taken helicopter flights over the glaciers, flew on a floatplane to the Taku lodge, and have gone whale watching several times: all for free! I have met so many unforgettable people here in Juneau, and am grateful at how quickly I made friends.  And it seems like every day I see something to remind me that I am in Alaska, whether it be a glacier, a bear, or an eagle.

As the season comes to an end I am already missing Juneau, and looking forward to next year. I have gained so much personal confidence from driving coaches and grown as an individual from this adventure in Juneau.  I no longer fear driving; quite the opposite, I look forward to it! Sometimes I still can’t believe I can drive a bus, and I hope someday to be able to train others to drive a coach.  This is the most unlikely job I had ever seen myself doing, and for that reason, has been one of the most valuable experiences of my life.

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