Travis Marr takes an incredible adventure every August for his Birthday. Last year it was Japan. This year he choose Alaska. And he choose to drive his Land Rover Discovery II the whole way north from San Diego and back. All 8,800 miles of it. Travis left San Diego in his 1999 Disco II that’s fitted with Old Man Emu suspension, a Baja Rack that holds two NATO gas cans and Tepui roof tent and set of KC lights. The The Land Rover is fitted with some other cool parts like a rear bumper from Tactical Rover, a blacked out hood with vents and a BFG KO2’s.
Travis’s childhood friend Chaz and Chaz’s brother, Justin, joined him for the trip. This is the daily account of his journey.
Days 1-3 – The Road to Canada And Public Bathrooms
Today is day 4 of my Alaskan adventure and I’m writing this on the highway somewhere deep in Canada. I’m going to recap the last few days for you. Day one was pretty boring because a large part of the driving was central California and SF. Basically everything north of the golden gate is new for me though.
I really hate pooping in public restrooms but I have found that Macy’s is pretty nice. Chaz forgot his phone at a pizza place which ended up being a hour and a half detour to retrieve it. As we drove back much of the time was spent thinking of various ways to murder Chaz.
The small Northern California towns have a nice methy feel to them. We turned onto some main street south of Eureka and there was a dude getting arrested in the middle of the intersection. People were sitting on their patios calmly watching the spectacle.
Dealing with finding a camping spot is one of the lamest things ever because like me, the rest of California is apparently on vacation. I DGAF though and I’m happy with parking in a random bush for the night.
Day two was really nice as the Oregon coast is amazing and beautiful. I had a Dungeness crab sandwich in this fishing town called Newport that you should probably check out. We were then off to Portland, then north to Seattle, and finally Canada.
There are lots of fucking pine trees in this part of the world.
Day three has been fun seeing what this country above us actually looks like. The Canadian highway construction crews are kind of genius. They seem to only hire hot women to direct traffic in construction zones which have an added safety benefit: “Yes, I will definitely slow down for you.”
I don’t know there isn’t too much going so far, I’m just sitting in a car for 12+ hours a day. Once we finally get to Alaska things should get more interesting. Watching the sunset in front of us in Canada from the Land Rover is pretty special though.
Day 4.5 – Regular Gas Stations And Showers Are Nicer Than We Realized.
Day 4???… Has been kick ass! We’re way the hell up in Canada driving through mountains with glaciers on them. This mornings priority for me was finding a creek to bathe in since its been a few days. There is still some snow on the mountains and that combined with the melting glaciers makes for some really fucking cold streams!
We’re getting the sense we’re very far from anyone now. It’s not uncommon for it to be hundreds of miles between gas stations – so happy I put two spare jerry cans full of fuel on the roof. The road isn’t that well maintained, has no guard rails, and is very narrow.
We have run into a few black bears chilling on the side of the road. When you get close to them they usually take off. Fireworks are a thing here👌👌👌👌👌 so I picked up some Roman candles. Speaking of picking things up we picked up a British hitchhiker. The dude seems cool I don’t think he’s going to murder us.
Chaz and his bro are broke as fuck and it’s cramping my style. I stood outside a closed McDonalds in the rain watching them try to heat a can of sloppy joe meat (which turned out to be just the sauce) for 45 minutes. I usually look at things like” hey maybe it’s worth paying the extra dollars for the convenience?”
So we are in this town called Whitehorse and we will be in AK tomorrow. Not sure what we’re doing with the British guy. But since I’m standing outside the window at a closed McDonald’s suckling off their free wifi I should probably wrap this up. Now we’re off to illegally camp somewhere I guess.
You should come see northern Canada pretty amazing and the Canadians are nice.
Day 5 – Bird Murderer And Don’t Light Those Fireworks…
We slept in today cause we only had about a 11 hour drive from Whitehorse to Valdez. We also did a little sight seeing and went to a museum for Whitehorse and the Yukon. You know, so it was like gold rush stuff.
As we started our drive for the day just outside town I struck a bird which immediately led to Chaz’s little brother screaming, “murderer!” and going on a tangent about my slaughtering all the Alaskan wildlife. I forgot to mention I ran a mudhen over yesterday so now my confirmed kills is at two so far…
We skirted along the edge of a really snowy mountain range with glaciers cling to some of the rocky faces. The mountains are starting to get pretty impressive now. The road was pretty much shit for most of the day and turned to dirt with deep pot holes.
Sadly I have to drive somewhat responsibly cause breaking something would be very bad here. We crossed over into Alaska it was pretty uneventful except for the boarder patrol telling me not to even think about lighting my fireworks here. Alaska is having a terrible fire season if you didn’t know.
We have covered over 3,500 miles in 5 days so I think that’s pretty cool. It’s about 9pm while I’m writing this and the sun is pretty high in the sky. But it looks like it’s about 6pm.
I’m thinking we should all buy some land on the beach here so when the globe is done warming we can have tropical beach parties with 15+ hours sunlight in the summer.
Next up is Valdez for the two days, then we load the Rover on a ferry for Cordova!
Day 6 – Kickass Breakfast and Free and Salmon
I write this sitting on the shore looking across to Valdez. I have salmon jumping in the bay, eagles screeching, a camp fire burning, and Chaz’s little brother jamming on the guitar.
This morning we went to this place called the Roadside Potatohead. They served these crazy breakfast French fries that had egg, sausage gravy, cheese, and jalapeños on top. It’s the kind of food I would imagine you would want on a cold ass morning as you head out to fish.
We then checked out the visitors center for some suggestions of things to do, they were terrible. We wanted to go for a hike but it ended up being a walk along a service road. It wasn’t very eventful except for me having to take a shit really bad. Thankfully Justin is a man which means he’s prepared for all situations and gave me some TP. Now this squatting thing may be easy for some of you but I tore my ACL and my knee doesn’t like bending. So I have to grasp desperately onto things to keep myself from falling over.
You are allowed to catch the salmon here. There are so many right on the shore if you’re patient you can use your hands to fling one onto the shore where you can stab it and put it out of its misery. Justin caught two and Chaz helped clean them for dinner. They cooked them with salt and pepper packets taken form McDonald’s and a lemon. They were pretty good.
I have this limit of only 5 days before I start freaking out about not having Mexican food. Like last year in Japan on day 7 all I was thinking about were burritos. I spent the flight home thinking about what burrito I wanted and from which restaurant. I dropped 16$ for a chimichanga tonight. (Food prices are higher here and this was a formal place) I’m not going to pretend like I’m not a princess catching fish is cool but I want my damn Mexican!!
Day 7 – Glaciers, Global Warming And Average Tasting Ice
The rains have moved in and I’m sitting here under a tarp held up by some branches driven into the ground, warm and safe. Justin and I are men! We drug fallen trees from the damp forest and built a fire with our ingenuity in the rain. I danced around our roaring inferno as the flames licked the sky exclaiming, “WE ARE MEN! WE HAVE MADE FIRE WHEN THE ODDS WERE AGAINST US! LOOK, LOOK WITH YOUR EYES UPON OUR WORK!”
So I sit and I write today’s post as my Chef Boyardee raviolis cook in the fire. I awoke late in the morning cause today was the last rest day before we reach our final destination tomorrow.
After our morning briefing over doughnuts we decided to head out to the Valdez glacier. I was really excited about this, it’s a damn glacier! With all the talk about global warming and stuff it seems really meaningful to see them now. You can basically drive your car right up to this glacier. As we jumped out of the Landy there was a cold fog in there air we could feel that we were close. There was a little hill that looked out over a lake that acted as an observation are. Dirty icebergs could be seen lurking in the fog.
Justin and I decided to hug the shoreline as we walked closer toward the glacier. Walking wasn’t easy the shore had various shrubs growing right to the waters edge. Chaz decided to stay behind. Justin and I made it to a place where we could jump onto a glacier that was beached near the shore.
We broke a little off and ate the ice. It didn’t really taste special to me. Once we were done doing glacier things we got rid of the roman candles I bought in Canada. The area adjacent to the glacier was wet, empty, and already full of blown up fireworks. So why not?
That was pretty much our day. Fire, donuts, glaciers, and roman candles. The rain may have slowed us down a bit but struggling to make a fire in it with Justin are the things I will look back on and remember. ????
Day 8 – Moose Sloppy Joes, The Deadliest Catch, And Family Blood
It’s a moving sight to finally see where my grandfather grew up. The ferry is navigating down narrow channels in between islands covered in lush green forests with the occasional peak that rises up into the misty clouds. It’s a foreboding sight; the landscape makes you feel small. You can only get to this place by plane or boat. I joke around about manliness like, “Oh we made fire! Or you should only drive a v8!” But in my eyes my grandfather was a real man.
I guess part of me came here to see first hand what roll this town played in shaping my grandfather. My first thought is you’re going to have to be tough physically and mentally. It’s a very small town that takes maybe 5 minutes to get from one side to the other by car. I spoke to some of my relatives yesterday and we were supposed to come by for dinner. It was pretty crazy to come this far and meet these people that shared the same blood as me.
Our dinner was moose sloppy joes! It was amazing! I thought they were kidding at first but nope! Also for dessert we had blue berry coffee cake made with berries picked from the mountains. The talk around the table was all fishing, what boats caught what, who was chugging where, who has an ugly boat. Everyone uses their hands here to make a living and I like that it’s good and honest work.
After diner my younger cousins took us down to the dock to show us the boat one crewed on. It looked pretty gnarly. Some of the Deadliest Catch boats come through here. They supposedly suck and are idiots I believe my cousins. They took me over to the fuel dock where the boat named Wizard took out one of the massive wood pylons. After that they took us up the water tower that looks over Cordova. I fucking hate heights so climbing up this exposed latter 3 stories to the top got my heart pounding. That was our first evening here I need to go call some people to set up our bush plane flight and other activities.
Day 9 – Ski Hills And Berries
I’m behind on posting these things now because we’re camping 27 miles outside Cordova on the copper river delta. So this is Tuesday’s adventures.
We set up camp the night before on some sand dunes next to the copper river that look across to a mountain range with snow on their peaks. It’s a long drive back into town most of the road is unpaved. So you’re trying to spot big pot holes to prevent destroying the car.
We decided to do the ski hill hike. Cordova has a ski resort even though it’s a very small town. It was kind of a rainy day with sporadic sunshine. The higher you went the more beautiful the scenery got. We started out on a rocky ski trail to a narrow path with planks crossing ponds. It’s amazing how manny berries there are. Blue berries and salmon berries basically lined the entire trail. Every time we would stop I would quickly gather as many as I could.
Once we started getting close to the top it opened up in to grassy hill sides with jagged rocky outcrops out. There were some parts where you were on all four climbing it wasn’t totally vertical though. It felt good to sit on top of the mountain and think about my grandfather doing this years before.
Day 10 – I Found Mexican Food Again
Oh my god Mexican!!!🇲🇽🇲🇽 found this Mexican place in town that has killer fish tacos. I mean when you’re pulling the fish right out of the beautiful water here I feel like it would be hard to screw up. Felt a little home sick yesterday but got this Mexican in me and now I’m like, “fuck that!”
We went out to Sheridan Glacier today before it melts. Cause you know global warming and stuff… But oh my fuck! I’m sure you have seen glaciers on Discovery Channel or in a documentary or something? Real life is like the best HD though. Sorry terrible joke.. Seeing it for real is epic! Fortunately the trail was short cause walking really isn’t that fun and don’t listen to the people that say it is. Upside the trail had lots of little raspberries and dragonflies which made it very scenic.
Once we got to the glacier Justin and I walked out onto it. It was a little sketchy I kept thinking about lame movies like K2 where I would just fall to my death in a deep crevasse. I don’t think it’s that wild of a thought though. There is water flowing through all the glaciers making tubes and hallowing them out. You would see little skylights going deep down into the dark blue ice.
Justin and I made it I guess what you would call a pond on this alien landscape. Justin stripped down and jumped in as I waited to haul him out. Yeah, he looked a little cold. As we walked back he stepped on what he thought was hard surface on the ice and fell through to about his calf.
Now I’m back at the Mexican place getting more Mexican because I love Mexican!!! Viva la raza! Yeah so boat ride tomorrow at 9:45 to the big ass glaciers I guess. The locals say it’s impressive so I guess it should be good.
Day 11 – Super Awesome Boat Ride… Sort Of
Went on this boat ride that was nothing like what we expected today. Basically we hung out with old ladies and were chaperoned around all day. Super boring I don’t really have much to say. We saw glaciers again but from a distance. Kind of frustrating cause my time is limited here. But I’m eating salmon fish tacos!
Day 12 – Understanding My Family In Alaska
I am very lucky that my family does some amazing things for a living. Terry Kennedy (I guess you could call him an uncle) has been flying bush planes up here in Alaska for over 30 years. The guy knows his shit real well. He’s old school military and warm hearted. He knew my grandfather very well and flew him on his last flight as they sprinkled his ashes in Copper River Delta.
Getting a ride with Terry was basically the number one reason why I came here. So today I got up early to meet Terry at the city airport. Cordova has two airports: one on pavement and one on water for the float planes. He works for a company called Alaskan Wilderness Outfitting which caters to the high end sports fishing scene. I was hopping on a cargo flight out to Tsiu lodge with him.
When he says lodge to me I’m thinking mossy log cabin with grizzly men. What I imagined is so far from that image. This is a 5 star lodge out in the middle of nowhere with 6 cabins, guides, and a personal chef.
The plane on the other hand was this little four seater deal which had me a little nervous. I kept thinking about that book The Hatchet. But knowing how good of pilot Terry is calmed me.
Trying to describe to you how amazing the vistas are from the air is not possible. I will take a stab at it but if you ever come up here the one thing you should do is fly in a bush plane. Below was a constantly changing land scape of river delta, sand dune, marsh, meadows, forest, fields of sinkholes, vast stretches of ice, and beaches. In the distance peaks that rose up well over 10,000 feet with snow caps block you from the interior. The colors are so vibrant from lush greens to icy blues.
As we flew I kept wondering, “what’s behind that? Or over there? Or over there?” I wanted to just keep going and see what’s hidden out here that very few people see. It’s hard to take it all in only one of the views I saw would be just cause to come here. Terry the whole time seemed to be enjoying himself as he took the scenic root back.
He would get a grin every time I would make some remark about how special this place is like he knows and he’s letting me in on his secret. So yeah this place is special as fuck and it’s my last day. I really am not ready to leave yet. But I need to go make the best use of my time.
Day 13 – Goodbye Cordova
Today was the last day in Cordova and I’m very sad about that. The rain has moved back in and I lay in my tent as I write this listening to the rain tap away on the roof. We went on another scenic hike today on a trail called power creek. You walk back into a canyon while ascending one of its walls. There are waterfalls with some of the bluest water I have ever seen spilling over them. After our little hike my uncle Dean called me up and wanted to know if I wanted to go on an air boat ride in the delta. That was obviously a yes. It was really amazing winding down rivers and skipping across sandbars while the mountains towered off in the distance. My uncle uses his air boat mostly for moose hunting. The moose live in the mash land and the air boats make it much easier to get around and transport it back. They don’t eat cows up here their red meat comes from the deer or moose they hunt and it’s a big deal. This isn’t sport this is about eating. We had one last family dinner and said our goodbyes. I was given a can of moose meat as a souvenir which I think is pretty awesome. Now we get back on the ferry and start the road trip back home. I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to do here. I don’t think I’m going to be able to stay away from Cordova it’s really special.
Day 14 – Driving Through The Night, Destruction Lake, And What The Fuck Was That?
Got up at 5:30am to catch the ferry back to Valdez. We put the pedal to the metal as soon as we rolled off the ramp in port.
Currently writing this sprawled out in the back seat of the Landy at 12:30am. Chaz and Justin decided they are going to drive through the night which should shave a day off of our planned arrival in SD.
We saw a lot of animals today. There was a female moose outside Valdez and a herd of goats by Destruction Lake that Justin chased off the road. The goats ran up the hill we were next to a looked at Justin like, “What the fuck was that?” Destruction Lake also has the most badass name for a lake. Sounds really extreme like it should be an evil villains layer.
I bought a shit load of Canadian candy tonight cause I can. So far it has been pretty good. Fun fact Canada bans a lot of fake filler stuff. For example if you buy a Hershey chocolate bar here you’re getting all chocolate. In the U.S. If you look at the package there is something called PGPR. Companies put it in the chocolate to increase profits because cocoa is expensive. Also Oreo uses coconut oil instead of some bullshit.
Speaking of shit I’m getting really tired of public restrooms. I am kind of OCD about some things and this freaks me out. Also the one ply sandpaper they have bums me out. (pun intended)
Day 15-16 – The Long Way Home
It has been pretty terrible the last few days since we have been pushing hard putting miles between us and Alaska. When I try and remember what happened it’s a blur of driving, not getting any sleep, and a lot of god damn evergreens.
Walmart lets you camp for 24h at most places so we pulled in there for Monday night. I didn’t feel like getting fully erect (My tent) so I tried reclining the seat and getting some sleep in the car. This didn’t work and sucked ass.
If you have been following along you may have read about my princess needs. Well I have been sleeping on a mattress in my tent with a memory foam pillow. A reclined chair is unacceptable after being used to this even if it’s my comfy Land Rover ones. So I groggily set out today down the road to Seattle.
I’m happy to report we found poutine on the side of the road. If you’re not familiar it’s fries, gravy, and cheese curds popular in Canada and more so in Quebec. Finding it really completed my Canadian experience. I really wanted to eat poutine before I left the country.
America hates Canadian citrus! Just saying we told the boarder patrol coming in the U.S. we had oranges and they weren’t happy. Justin created a fiasco by saying he had some but forgot he threw them away. So the boarder dudes were rummaging through everything at the kiosk.
We made it to Seattle and I wanted to have a nice dinner here. I really like this city. Maybe it’s like a cross between San Diego and San Francisco? But I would like to say thanks for the suggestions of where to eat. (you know who you are) We had pizza and it was really good. I’m not too picky about my pizza though. Some people think that it’s blasphemy that I like pineapple on it.
When we got back to the truck I noticed there was a sweet Land Rover Defender parked near us. So this is like a total Bro moment for two reasons. One, Land Rover owners fucking love other Land Rovers and two, we are what you call overlanders who nerdgasm at the sight of modified overlanding vehicles. So explanation of an overlander, it is someone who covers large distances in their truck and live out of it. I wouldn’t count motor homes as this. It’s more like Toyota Land Cruisers, 4runners, Mercedes G wagons, Land Rovers, manny more off-roadish suv type things. It’s a small sub scene in the overall automotive world.
I’m currently in my tent in a Walmart parking lot in a suburb of Seattle. You don’t have to worry about bears attacking in the night tweakers are now the mane threat. Reno Nevada tomorrow cause Daddy needs pay some gas bills.
Travis somehow made it from San Diego to Alaska and back in a Disco without any mechanical issues which still blows me a way. He’s already planning his next journey and some new mods for the Land Rover. You can follow his planning on Travis’s Facebook page or just keep an eye out for his articles on Build Race Party.