A year ago my silly "Living VANcariously" title should have been retired when the van was adopted by a fellow road warrior... but the heart is still here, I'm still exploring and wanting to share the experiences with you, only now just renting a room and traveling in different vehicles.
Over the time that has passed since settling in to Truckee, I've had a few different jobs, one of which was full-time in a stressful office that really got me dreaming of getting out and going on another big adventure. Didn't have much of a travel itch though since this winter was really great in the Tahoe region, with some resorts getting over 700" of snow. Shredding the powdery slopes kept me happy, but still longed to see some new sights.
For a decade one of my longtime friends, Paul Laca, has been going to Alaska each summer for salmon fishing. He's always told me stories about the majestic Chugach Mountains, showing me amazing photos like it was a National Geographic magazine. Somehow over my snowboarding career I had never been to AK, so over time it became something of a fairytale destination. Well, a few years ago after all of his experience he started his own small commercial fishing boat operation, and would always put out an invite for me to come be a deckhand so I could finally check out this land, and water. He told me there was an opportunity that would pay for all my expenses plus a little extra, which before even understanding what it was, assuming it was like some Deadliest Catch tv show, I was booking a plane ticket!
I got in a couple days early to explore and packed in some adventures right away: biked for miles on a dirt road with a far too heavy camera bag, hiked through mud and snow in bear and moose territory, enjoyed only Alaskan beer, ate lots of nachos, built tree forts with Bodie, and even did a popup pizza party!
After I was done playing around, we finally got to work getting the boat prepped for the trip, and also got a full explanation of what we were here for. (I didn't care what it was, just stoked to be in Alaska finally)
So 30 years ago there was the biggest ecological disaster ever in the Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, when an oil tanker crashed and leaked 11 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean. It killed countless numbers of birds, fish, etc, and actually now there are reports of the volunteer cleanup worker who are now showing cancer... even today there are still areas you can turn over a rock on the shoreline and find oil. It's ridiculous there were no engineering precautions taken to avoid such an event or even ideas on how to minimize the damage to the environment. WELL NOW, there are state mandated oil industry funded emergency plans, and this is where my trip funding came from.
The routes of these oil tankers are the same areas commercial fisherman catch salmon during the summer, and if there was, hopefully not, the fisherman would already be there as first responders to the scene. Because of that once a year there is a multi-day workshop with education and training for the fishing crews, for using equipment to collect the oil before it can touch the shorelines. It's basically a bunch of skimmers that attach between boats and you drag them around the ocean to collect the floating oil, then use machines to suck it up and pump into barges. There's more, but monotonous info on procedures that I hope to never put into action.
Sorry, no reality tv shows this time.
The original Living VANcariously adventure touched all 48 contiguous states, and now having explored Alaska, I just have one state left to see...
H A W A I I ! ! !
The only time I've seen the Hawaiian islands is on a postcard, so somehow we need to turn this dream into a reality. I'd love to work with a brand to collaborate on an advertising project, create marketing assets for a campaign, promote some new products, develop content, and make some memories. Please pass along my info to anybody you may think could help. Robbie@robbiesell.com
Thanks for checking out my adventure, and hope you get inspired to get out there too!!!