Let me start by saying our future blog entries will not be anywhere close to this long. However, we felt it necessary to explain in detail why we have made the decisions we have. Ever since we announced that we were looking to move to Alaska the number one response / question has been an emphatic, "WHAT...WHY? YOU KNOW IT'S COLD THERE...RIGHT?". Well, to answer this question lets start from the very beginning...
It all started when my wife, Robin, and I were married back in October of 1998. We began talking then about the possibility of visiting AK on a cruise or other possible vacation type trip. A couple of years later our first son, Cameron, was born and we joked then that when he graduated high school he was not receiving a graduation gift from us but that instead we were going to use that money and take our cruise to AK. Over the years a trip there has been something that has always been in our thoughts. The parts we were never sure of was the standard... When, Where & How.
Almost two years ago my wife came to me one evening and told me she felt strongly that we needed to move and that the location we needed to move to was AK. At first I thought she was joking but she persisted and I realized then that she was very serious. I wondered why she felt this way as I had never imagined actually living in this great state. I then thought that maybe it was an early mid-life crisis of some sort but after more and more discussion, I could tell that she was very serious and very set on making this happen and it was for reasons that neither of us were certain about. Unfortunately at that point we were not on the same page at all. I still wanted to visit AK very much but had no plan nor desire of living there. I tried to appease her with an offer to finally take our vacation their but that was not enough.
Over the next few months, she remained persistent and we continued to have weekly discussions about AK and moving. Being the planner that I am, I remained insistent that it was only logical to take a vacation there first to see what we thought about it, prior to moving. She finally agreed and we began planning and thinking about the best way to make this happen.
Around this same time the parents of a very good friend of ours, who visited AK annually, decided to purchase a small cabin in Soldotna, AK. There names were the Gilberts and it wasn't until this time that we discovered that they actually took 2-3 trips there per year and were in fact in love with the state. Once we discovered this we began talking to them regularly about the state and what it had to offer and during one of our conversations with them my wife explained how she felt strongly that we need to move there.
Over the next couple of months we continued to have routine conversations with them about AK and my wife continued to convey her strong desire to get there. Then one evening during one of these conversations the Gilberts made the rather shocking offer to let us stay in their cabin for our trip. This was a fantastic opportunity but were they really serious... or were they just doing the neighborly thing and making one of those hollow offers that was never meant to be accepted? Over the next month or so we continued to talk about our trip and the options they had given us on their cabin. The more we talked the more they assured us and the more we came to realize that they were in fact genuine and sincere... They wanted us there if we wanted to be.
It was around this same time that I too began to feel that maybe AK was where we were suppose to be. This was the first time I began to actually see things the same way as my wife on this matter and really started to feel that this relocation of sorts needed to happen. As Robin and I continued to discuss and plan our trip, my once very rational thoughts began to change and I begin thinking about saving the money we were going to use for our vacation there and instead put it toward our move. Several more discussions transpired and we finally agreed this was the approach we were going to take. However, knowing this and having everything actually line up to make it possible were two totally separate things.
During this same time my youngest son, Cole, began playing Jr. Pro Basketball at his school. On our way to practice one evening my wife recognized a Denali SUV in the parking lot with an AK tag on it. Surprised to see an Alaskan license plate at a school in Seymour she immediately began asking me questions about who this could be. Unfortunately I did not know and we were both left to wonder. A couple of weeks later, I had to work over one night and asked Robin if she could take Cole to practice for me. When she arrived and set down on the bleachers she overheard the lady beside here talking to another parent about the fact that they had just moved to TN from AK, to be closer to family. Surprised and excited she texted me to see if I thought she should approach the lady and possibly discuss our situation. I assured here that I didn't think the lady would bite her but she was still hesitant and said nothing. After practice she ran into the lady again as they were both trying to exit the gym through a locked door. She struck up a conversation with her about AK and our situation and before she knew it an hour had passed as they sat there and talked about AK and what we were going through. Much to her surprise, she discovered that this lady (Ms. Leedy) and her family had went through many of the same trials and situations that we were now facing. They quickly became friends and started chatting often about kids, family and of course AK.
As the days continued to pass I began to scour the Internet looking for possible jobs in AK. I applied for anything and everything that was remotely close to my area of expertise and even some positions that were not even close. We also began painting and preparing the house to be sold. During that time we informed the Gilberts of our decision and that we would need to figure out something else since we were planning to move up instead of visiting, as we originally discussed. To our surprise, their immediate response was that we should stay in their place until we were settled there and were on our feet. Again, surprised, we wondered if they were serious but they ensured us that they were and just wanted to help in any way they could. It was at this point that "the bus was actually going into motion" as they say... This was the first big step and things were slowly beginning to move forward.
During the next month we put our house on the market and began to look for the best possible way to get ourselves and our stuff to AK. We checked into moving companies but they were just too expensive. We checked into buying a large enclosed trailer but there was a lot of expense there too as we would not only have to buy a large trailer but we would probably need a large truck to pull it too. During this time we continued to talk with many people about our decision, some were very supportive while others thought we were crazy I'm sure. One night while sitting at home my phone rung and it was Mr. Gilbert. He proceeded to tell me that him and his wife had been talking and they had a 5th wheel toy hauler camper they wanted us to take and use on our trip to AK, if everything worked out and we were able to go. Completely surprised, we were once again left wondering... Are they serious or is this another one of those neighborly offers that you never take someone up on? However, after a few more conversations they convinced us they were in fact very serious as they wanted their camper in AK and had no plans or availability at the present time to take it themselves. Here another stepping stone had been placed and things continued to move in a positive direction.
While we now had a camper to take, use and stay in on our way up and a cabin to live in once we got there, this is where things began to slow down for us. Over the next 3-4 months, our house sat on the market with no real interest from anyone. To compound things even more, companies' interest in a potential employee who was over 4600 miles away on the other side of the continent was not very high. Application after application submission seldom generated responses and those that did were only to tell me the position had already been filled. Finally, after 30-50 submissions I received a request for an interview with a prominent bank in the area. The interview took place and went very well, so much so that I felt strongly that I would be considered for the position but the company was in a tight crunch and needed someone who could step in immediately. Since I was in TN and would need at least 3 weeks to get there, the position was filled by someone else and I was left wondering how our decision to move was ever going to work. As the days and weeks went on, we began to grow weary and to wonder if AK really was the place we were meant to be.
Then on Memorial Day weekend, the Leedys approached us about leasing our house. They had had plans of moving back to AK but some things came up and those plans were postponed. With two kids of their own, they wanted more space and a yard their children could play in. This was the first time we had seriously considered leasing but thought this might be the opportunity we were looking for. Unfortunately this opportunity did not work out as it was just not something we were ready to do at that time. However, what it did do was show us that God was willing and completely able to put us were he wanted us. It also caused us to take stock in what we had and realize that if this was going to work, things had to be in order between us and him. After lots of prayer and some late night discussions over the weekend, we headed out Memorial Day to find a new truck... One that we could use to pull a camper and our belongings to AK.
As the day began we found several trucks within our first few stops on Alcoa highway but none of them appeared to be "the one". We stopped at a few places in Knoxville and found one that we liked. We talked to the salesman for a few minutes about the truck and also discovered in doing so that he too was from AK. He had been born and raised there but had moved to TN a few years ago to be with his wife's family. We let him know that we liked the truck, thanked him for his time and explained we were just getting started and had other places to look. We traveled through 5 counties that day looking for trucks but our thoughts kept coming back to the earlier vehicle we had found. This seemed to be "the one"! We traveled back to Knoxville late that evening to see if we could buy it. As we were in the salesman's office, he called his mom, who was still in AK, and we talked to her over speakerphone for a few minutes while we waited. Ironically, she was complaining about how hot it was there... A huge heat wave with a high of 72. After some back and forth and a day and a half of shopping and haggling, we walked away with the truck and another AK encounter that helped support that we were on the right path.
A week after we bought the truck, we went from having no one interested in the house to having 2 families who were looking to lease or lease to purchase. One of which was a good friend of mine. We met with both couples twice over the weekend and followed that up with lots of prayer and discussion. After much debate we went with our friends and within a week the contract was signed and ready to go.
Two days later, I had two people ask to buy my car... A car that I had never advertised or offered to anyone. Again, it was another friend of mine who was interested and ended up purchasing it for his daughter. And just when you thought that was it, something else happens.
You see I had a boat that I had been fishing out of for several years. It was a boat that I had been trying to sell for at least a couple of those years with no success. Numerous people had looked at it but no one would ever bite. Until one day around this same time I received a call from a good friend and fishing partner of mine who wanted to know if the boat was still for sale. I explained that it was and he told me he would take it. We worked out the deal and the boat is now his.
But wait there's more... In the 4 weeks since we signed a contract on our house, we have managed to sell all of our furniture and all of our other belongings that were not needed. We went from having all this stuff, and thats really all it is... Is stuff, to only having a truck of our own and a camper we have borrowed.
So now, after all of that, here I sit at 2am in the morning typing this entry from a 35' Toy Hauler Camper that's parked in a campground in Sevierville, TN... Preparing to head out on what's sure to be an experience of a lifetime. One that i'm sure we will never forget. Looking back now, I can see that God's plan had started taking shape long before my wife ever approached me that day and way before either of us ever realized that God had a path for us that only we could travel. That door has now been open for us and our path is set before us. It's time to walk through and begin our journey.