Two friends are taking their ultimate road trip, an 11,000-mile journey from upstate New York to Alaska and back.
Retracing the footsteps of infamous mobsters. Living the cowboy life in Canada. Waking up under the stars and to silence at sunrise. Finally seeing a great grizzly bear and salmon struggling with all their might against the crystal clear current of northern rivers.
Longtime friends Matthew Ray and Bryan Carey gassed up their Subaru and left their Pittsford homes June 10 on their "ultimate road trip:" A seven-week discovery of North America, of small towns and big cities and wide-open wilds in between.
Longtime friends Matthew Ray and Bryan Carey gassed up their Subaru on June 10 and left their Pittsford homes headed weston their "ultimate road trip."
They are driving 11,000 miles to Alaska and back, taking in the wilds and unexpected surprises along the way.
The journey is their reward to themselves for finishing college, before they start careers -- Ray in computers and Carey in marketing.
"We've been as far east as you can go (in North America), so we decided to go as far west as we could," says Carey, 24.
Alaska is the northernmost state, and the farthest point west in North America. That they don't know many people who have been there was also a draw.
Flying was out of the question; they'd miss all the cool stuff along the way.
"Alaska is a gorgeous destination but there's interesting places in between," says Ray, 23. "We're killing 10 birds with one stone."
Ray and Carey stocked their Outback wagon with camping gear, extra firewood, a first aid kit, flashlights and two coolers of food, conveniently stashed behind the front seats for easy-access snacking.
They've got Carey's grandfather's car, and his lucky St. Christopher medal, the patron saint of travelers. He passed away, and Carey's grandmother offered it to them for the trip.
"I know Bryan has got sand in his shoes," says his grandma, Joan Sliwoski. "He has for a long time. He loves to travel. I had a car in perfect shape, and he's all set to go."Eliminating the need for a rental car helped out financially. Ray and Carey each saved $5,000 for the trip. They are camping in the national and state parks and staying in hotels in the cities.
A dozen maps and AAA camping books were spread out on Carey's dining-room table, three days before they left. Ray's laptop glows with route information and interesting destinations weird and wondrous that Carey found while scoping out town Web sites.
Underground tunnels in Moosejaw, Canada, that were once frequented by mobsters wooed them in, and they want to watch cowboys in the Calgary Stampede. A hockey fan, Carey's definitely hitting Edmonton, Canada.
Out in Canada's wild remote Yukon territory, they plan on adding their "Rochester" mark to Signpost Valley. Long ago someone erected one of their own hometown, and how far it is away from Watson Lake. There are now more than 3,000 of them."We're gonna bring one of our own," says Ray.
They're also going to visit a new friend in Whitehorse, Canada. On a recent family trip to Hawaii, Carey found himself seated next to "Mike," a Canadian park ranger who lives in Whitehorse Ñ another favored destination on their road trip.
They've exchanged e-mails and Mike has invited them to stay overnight. "That was a cool encounter," says Carey.
On June 29, they plan to meet up with Carey's father, Dave, to spend the week at a lodge on the Kenai Peninsula, salmon and halibut fishing and looking for grizzlies.
Their home-bound route takes them right past good old Buffalo, but they don't plan on slowing down.
"I think, Buffalo we've seen," Carey chuckled.
Carey and Ray are veteran road-trippers. They have taken two other long driving journeys together, to Yellowstone National Park, the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, and to St. John's New Foundland, North America's easternmost point. Both trips were 5,000 miles.
At first, they went to see the national parks, bound by their love of nature and travel. "Stumbling" upon scenery, people and things like the "great corn palace" of Mitchell, S.D. (farmers decorate the town hall in husks and colored corn) and losing the rest of the world in foggy New Foundland would have never happened if they did not take their time, and drive.
Ray says they never even thought about flying to any of these places.
"It was a lot more freedom," says Carey. "We could go where we wanted, when we wanted."
They have a Web site so friends -- at home and ones they make on the road --can follow their adventure. They are posting photos, videos, maps and keeping track of their daily budget. They also have a bumper sticker promoting the site -- www.OurDriveToAlaska.com -- so curious people who drive by can log on, too.
"We made business cards up, too," says Ray. They are handing them out to people they meet. "We might take a picture of them and put them on our site."
Driving 11,000 miles means more opportunity to meet locals and experience their hometowns, through their eyes.
"We get to know more than we ever expected," says Ray.
It also means more than 1,170 hours together in what may seem at times a very tiny, cramped car.
Ray says they get "feisty" sometimes, sure, but "we've been on trips together and know each other."
They've learned some things on the road, of course, and expect to find out more about themselves on this one.
Ray says he's found people are nicer. "People who are traveling want to get to know places, to get to know other people, to get to know themselves," he said.
Carey knows to "expect the unexpected." That's what they look most forward too."It's going to be an adventure, for sure."
Kris Dreessen can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 253, or firstname.lastname@example.org