"North to Alaska"

    Lots of people ask how I did this one.  I told them that I got in my car, drove to the Arctic Circle, and put on a Santa hat.    "Yeah, OK, sure," they'd say.  My story was, however,  the exact truth.

     The Silicon Valley company I worked for at the time was famous for retaining employees by offering them a paid, six-week sabbatical after four years of employment.  (Boy, those days aren't coming back.)

     I drove up the California coast, over to Las Vegas, up through Oregon, west along the Columbia river and up to Bellingham, Washington.  There, I drove the car onto the Alaska Marine Ferryboat, the  M.V. Columbia, and cruised up the coast of Canada to Haines, Alaska.  From there, I drove to Anchorage, where I met my cousin Bob at the airport.  

Right:  Ray and Bob in 1955

    Robert A. Bartlome had been my boyhood buddy and the brother I never had.  He was the one who originally taught me about computers.  He'd just been laid off, was going through a divorce, was broke and thoroughly depressed.  So I hired him to be my expedition driver.  The two of us spent a month tear-assing around Alaska in my new Subaru.  The high point of the trip was an all-day jaunt north from Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway.  We cruised up the pipeline road, crossed the Yukon river, and kept on going.  

    There's nothing at the Arctic Circle except a gravel road, endless tundra, the sign you see in the background, and clouds of the most aggressive mosquitoes on Earth.  They are the size of small birds.

 Left: Cousin Bob, next to the video terminal he designed.

      On the card it looks like I'm driving past the sign, but actually I had to back the car up to it.  Bob took the shot with a fully-extended 200mm zoom, to collapse the field of view.  Then we signed the certificates of achievement that we'd purchased at the Yukon River gift shop, and turned the car south.  We drove down the Alcan highway to America, and then to Southern California.  I went back to work.  He went back to his divorce. 

     Bob was a lifelong smoker who loved to eat.  He died of heart failure two years after that trip, alone, in a motel room.  I'm grateful that we had one last grand, happy adventure to remember each other by. 

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