In 1989, we learned there was an opening for the pianist position at the US Air Force Band of Alaska. In a leap of faith, we immediately volunteered. It meant packing up our small apartment and driving 5,500 miles from Langley AFB, Virginia to Anchorage, AK. To add to the adventure, we found out just after leaving that we would be joined by Spencer early the following year. We were two nervous kids!
We left Hampton Roads, Virginia in May 1989 and drove to West Virginia to say goodbye to my folks, then on to Wisconsin to say goodbye to Beth’s family. Then, it was the open road and the adventure of a lifetime. We headed west to Yellowstone National Park, then north into Canada. After 2 weeks and about 3,500 miles, we reached the BEGINNING of the Alaska Highway. Only 2,000 more miles to go. Did I mention it was June and my old car had no A/C! Back in 1989, the hotel accommodations were rather rustic compared to today.
Well, we made it to Anchorage and 22-hour-a-day sunlight a few days ahead of schedule, and a week later we were moving into our apartment on base. Soon, I was traveling with the band to remote bases throughout Alaska, leaving Beth behind to unpack and set up our home. It was a skill she would use many times over the next 30+ years. (We are currently living in our 13th home.)
Spencer arrived that winter when it was snowing and -28 degrees outside. He didn’t seem to mind, and was happiest when the apartment was pretty chilly! He loved playing outdoors in the snow, even at an early age, but also loved visiting the large indoor swimming pool at the nearby Army base (Ft Richardson). He was swimming while he was still in diapers, and continued to enjoy swimming even through high school, where he earned his lifeguard certification. In Alaska, Spencer also enjoyed visiting the Anchorage Zoo, the Imaginarium Science Center, cross-country skiing, hiking, and traveling. We visited Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Seward, Valdez, and even made it to Kodiak Island.
We were able to take flights each summer back to Wisconsin and West Virginia to visit family. And, our parents and family members had a good excuse to visit Alaska several times. This was before email and FaceTime, so it was always a great thrill to visit and have visitors. I think we were pretty good Alaska tour guides, too.
My job with the band was enjoyable (most of the time) and allowed me to travel to remote spots throughout Alaska, including the far Aleutian Islands and small villages like Dillingham and Nome. If there were facilities, I would often come back later with Beth and Spencer.
In 1996, the Air Force was limiting folks to 2 tours to encourage turnover of personnel. In June, we moved on to our next base, Offutt AFB, Nebraska. We took with us 7 years of wonderful memories. And LOTS of photos! Hope you enjoy them.
Join Us For 7 Years Of Great Times In Alaska
50 Favorite Photos of Alaska : I picked these from over 12,000 slides and photos.
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Growing Up Around Anchorage and Elmendorf Air Force Base – Life close to home
Family Trips: Fairbanks and Denali NP
Family Trips: Palmer/Wasilla/Matanuska Valley/AK State Fair
Family Trips: Seward and the Kenai Peninsula
Family Trip: Kodiak
Family Trip: Dawson City, Yukon (via the “Top Of The World Highway”
Family Trip: Valdez (Just a few years after the oil spill)
Family Trip: Hawaii – We took a vacation to Hawaii over Christmas 1995
Mike’s Trip: Shemya Air Station at the far end of the Aleutian Islands
Mike’s Trip: Adak Naval Air Station on a remote Aleutian Island
Mike’s Trip: Galena Air Station and Brooks Camp – Bears! Bears! Bears!
Mike’s Trip: Denali and Central Alaska
Mike’s Trip: Southeast Alaska – Juneau, Ketchikan, Cordova
Mike’s Trip: Dillingham and Bristol Bay – Including the Beaver Roundup Festival!
Aerial Photos around Alaska