Across Continents

Ken's Blog


September 24th, 2011

I’d felt a bit nervous returning to the surgery with some chocolates. By way of a small thank you for treating me so promptly, and with such care. Quietly mentioning I thought most things were fine in moderation. Joked I’d never met a woman who didn’t like them, and if I did there was always carob.

Despite a good night’s rest I didn’t entirely feel on full form. Little bit jaded, perhaps a bit light-headed. Combination, I thought, of various medications and anaesthetic, much of it on an empty stomach. But still magnitudes better than the previous day, for which I was immensely grateful.


Monte the dentist had called me earlier, making sure I was fine. I was keen, I explained, to drop in and thank everyone in person. When would suit best I’d asked. Lunchtime he’d suggested. Mental note to self. Don’t stay too long. Quick photograph. Doubtless the only chance they’d have to sit down all day. And I’d Betsy and Rocky to go and thank for all their kindness and help.



Kicked into life

September 23rd, 2011

Just after three in the afternoon. Knock on the door. Betsy and Rocky. Checking up on me. Concerned they’d not seen me all day. I admitted I’d not slept, barely even dozed. Painkillers not making a dent, my face swollen with an ever present throbbing pulse. Waiting for the powerful antibiotics to reduce the swelling and permit the rogue tooth to be extracted.

They were polite but firm. I shouldn’t be accepting this degree of suffering. Betsy would run me back down to the nearby surgery. See if they could prescribe something stronger for the pain. I didn’t argue. For one thing, I knew they had my best interests at heart. They were right. So absorbed by the pain, I simply wasn’t thinking straight. I didn’t argue.

Less than fifteen minutes later I was in the chair. Feeling elated as the local anaesthetic quickly took hold. Positively savouring the absence of pain. Monte the dentist had been very clear. Such was the extent of the infection waiting any longer for the swelling to reduce wouldn’t make a jot of difference. Better to extract the tooth straightaway. I nodded in firm agreement. Just as I knew Betsy and Rocky would take care of me, I’d absolute trust in Monte from the moment I met him.

It took a while to extract the problem child. Last little bit of root proving particularly tricky. But I never felt – or saw – a thing. Eyes firmly closed. Vaguely aware of others coming and going. Almost intoxicated by the absence of suffering. A joyous feeling.

[The author is indebted to Betsy and husband Andy, Rocky, together with Monte the dentist and his team – Jennie, Rachel and Christy for all their help]



The Undefeated

September 23rd, 2011

aluminium all-oo-ne-umb – lightweight metal

I suggested it sounded like a spaghetti Western, half expecting it to feature Clint Eastwood as a hired gun. Had that ring to it. "The Undefeated". But Mary Ann was quite sure. It was a movie about Alaska’s Governor and Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin. Released a month or two ago. Without trace. In Alaska the silence is always deafening.


I’d met Mary Ann – the English spelling she’d assured me – working in a small bookshop in Palmer. I’d wandered in a little before closing time, looking for maps. Born in Japan, she’d grown up in California but had tired of the encroaching San Francisco suburbs and the smog. Choosing to seek clean air and space. Which Alaska has in spades.

I was quite envious of her. She’d be canal boating. Admittedly to Leeds, but it’s all too easy to inadvertently wander into Yorkshire. Something I always wanted to do, but never quite got around to. Thought it really needed a decent sized group of friends, the sort who got on in a confined space. Mary Ann suggested four was a good number, some of the locks pretty hard work. I favoured being the navigator.



Amongst the Mennonites

September 22nd, 2011

It was the bonnets and long dresses that’d caught my eye as I’d wandered into the centre of Palmer. A small town about forty or so miles north of Anchorage. Two young women passing me on their bicycles. A brief exchange of pleasantries. Part, I thought, of some form of orthodox religious community. But a little surprised, that sort of thing being something I’d associated with New England rather than Alaska. Not quite sure why. Certainly no earthly reason. After all, if wanted to pursue your beliefs unhindered by others, a small community in the remote far north would seem to make a lot of sense.

Unsure as to which sect the women might belong to, I’d enquired in a nearby deli. Mennonites thought the conventionally attired woman serving. She’d a family of them as neighbours. Twelve children. Look out for all the churches, she suggested. But where was I from, she asked. I explained. She was leaving for London shortly, off to read Medicine. Would she return to Alaska to practice? Probably not.



On the Old Glenn Highway

September 21st, 2011

On the Old Glenn Highway from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Tired of the traffic on the new Glenn Highway north of Anchorage, Ken chooses to follow the old road into Palmer.



Serious stuff…

August 11th, 2011

Perhaps it’s because I’m English. Preferring understated. Mustn’t grumble and all that. And much of the day-to-day stuff, the aches and pains, I probably do just take in my stride. Norms that don’t merit a mention. Or perhaps they should if I’m to properly convey just what life is like on the road.

And whilst I can never be sure exactly what lies ahead, I’ve a pretty shrewd idea it’s going to be tough, both physically and psychologically. That’s Alaska for you. Definitely not a playground. Wild camping in bear country. Vast tracts of wilderness to cover. Canadian Customs. Winter soon beginning to creep in.


And, yes. I already am in Alaska. Always a bit ahead of the blog. Back on the road. Feeling reflective. A condition in part brought on by the need to remain static for a couple of days whilst I recover from emergency dental treatment. Large abscess not dented by painkillers or antibiotics.


The tale of this little drama will unfold in due course, not out of a search for sympathy, but for what it says of the Alaskans I’ve met. Remarkable kindness and generosity. Truly so. Taken under the wing of a wonderful lady called Betsy (on the right above). Which actually means ordered to bed to rest. Kicked into life when required. Properly mothered. I loved it. Monte the dentist and his team (below) for fixing me up.


And back in Anchorage, my starting point in Alaska, new friendships forged rather than simply acquaintances made. People like John (below), Linda and Amelia. And quite a few more.


So, I’ll continue to document the people and places I encounter on my travels. But perhaps add a little more about the day-to-day challenges. In the meantime, back to my maps and the route down through Canada and on to Seattle on the north-west corner of the US. For I’ve a bit of a plan in mind, one I’m quite very determined will succeed…

[With especial thanks to John in Anchorage for his helpful thoughts on what features in the blog – constructive comments are always appreciated]


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