So Anchorage is odd. G and I weren’t really sure what to expect but we both conceded it would be cold and probably overcast – cue beautiful sunshine upon arrival yet a taxi driver who informed us that our hostel we’d booked into was a “little slice of hell.” He recommended another hostel but admitted it’d probably be shut as the owner had just been convicted of sex-crimes in Thailand. Odd. Everyone we’ve met has been odd. There was the raving Mexican bloke on the corner who kept yelling about guns at us. There was a huge black guy with gold teeth called John (naturally) with whom we’d got in touch about possibly buying his wife’s car. The car looked as if it had been partially recycled. John asked where we were from. Upon hearing “Scotland,” he enquired if this was overseas. Over the next 30 minutes we told him about the concept of foreign currency, passports and the existence of Europe. In fairness he also educated us on the reason why all these oddballs, collected on to the streets of Anchorage like drifting snow, hang around up here in the first place – the annual Dividend Cheque. This is like a prize from the US government to all residents of Alaska who have lived there for over 12 months – to the tune of $2000 per person. By using this incentive, they’ve been gradually pushing deadbeats and drifters out of the Lower 48 and on to the barren blocks of Anchorage – creating a living and breathing tribute to Breaking Bad. To begin with it’s pretty unsettling but over time you just learn to cross the road and ignore the ranting. It’s not all bad though! Far from it actually. Because odd can also be good – very, very good. Thanks to a couple of loveable oddballs who run Civic Auto on 5th Street we are now proud owners of Gina The 1995 Jeep Cherokee! Every blog, thread and website said non-Alaskans could not buy a car. We had tried for a whole day to work out insurance loopholes and reg plate hurdles but every car dealership and insurance broker told us it was a no-go and we best catch a bus. Consigning ourselves to the greyhound we were trudging our way to the depot when I spotted the shimmering flags of a showroom we had somehow missed. The cars on the forecourt looked like they’d been used in the new Mad Max film but the prices were refreshingly low. Suddenly a chap in a leather jacket emerged and asked what we were looking for. We told him we wanted a car to explore the wilderness but as foreginers it sadly wasn’t to be. Ben, as he later introduced himself as, narrowed his gaze and muttered – “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” We nodded in unsion. “Yes Ben….yes there is.” Ben introduced us to his boss Stavros. An older bloke with a pony tail and a dozen rings. As they got to work lining a car up for us and getting round the various piles of federal red tape, Stavros educated us on the intricacies of the Battle of Agincourt, the virtues of drug legalisation and the arrival of Druids in America. Ben was then sent out with us to sort out insurance. During this we found out Ben was an Inuit from a village on the very western coast of Alaska (named in Klingon by the sound of things) and used to be the chief of police there. Out in that neck of woods, alcohol is completely illegal meaning that everyone and his sled dog does a good line in distilling and producing illicit moonshine, including Ben himself. As interesting as these stories were though, G and I were truly amazed by these two guys’ unswaying enthusiasm in helping us acquire a car. And now, with Gina parked outside our hostel, laden with camping gear and food and raring to head south tomorrow on the Seward Highway, I must make a point that if you ever want to get yourself an automobile in Alaska, head to Civic Auto and talk to Ben and Stavros. They are literally the only guys in the 49th State who will get you that car. Two days into our adventure and have we already met the coveted “Most Helpful Local Person Award-Winners?” Very possibly.
In other news, if you want to play pool in America and you’re out of quarters, just use 10 pence pieces, they fit in the slots just the same! After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Places we ate that were ace: Moose’s Tooth! (Micro-brewery with ridiculous pizzas). Snow City! (Eggs Benedict and motown!)
Places that weren’t ace: Polar Bar! (Beer that tastes like bin bags and locals who take pool really, really seriously).
OK – just like Alexander Supertramp, we are now heading into the wilderness. Let’s hope Gina is up to the task. Talk soon.