While Sheryl Gallup was planning her trip to Alaska, she said she would have been satisfied with a 14-day adventure. Her boyfriend Harlan would have no such thing.
His lifetime dream has always been to take an extended RV trip to tour America via wheels on pavement, and after failed attempts at convincing Sheryl, he exerted one last effort.
“I told him no because I was trying to get my new business settled in,” she said. “In 2012 he asked me again and we decided that in the spring of 2013 we would embark on a three-month, 10,000-mile round trip from Minnesota to Alaska, but only if he understood that I had to work from the road every day. I am a business owner and I have obligations to my clients. I currently work with my clients remotely anyway since they are scattered all across the country, it seemed plausible to work from any place we visited as well.”
As first-time RV buyers, their initial task was to find a home on wheels that suited their needs. After attending a number of RV and sport events, along with making a stop by every dealership in metro Minneapolis, they finally found a 23-foot 2007 Flagstaff travel trailer that worked for them.
Though both Gallup and her boyfriend were new to the RV lifestyle, they are both hunters and fishers and have taken a number of shorter trips.
“We love to remote camp and annually we pack up the boat and (head) out to a very private and remote island in our favorite spot in northern Minnesota,” she said. “No electricity, no plumbing, no people. It really gives us an opportunity to connect with each other and to the land.”
She said research was a huge part of the process in preparing for the road trip.
“It took a year to review all the books, do the online research to plan our route and determine what our ‘must-see’ travels should include,” Gallup said. “We also invited friends over for dinner a few months before we left to pour over their maps and their travel routes since they were about to embark on their 15th trip to Alaska. They are pros!”
When organizing the trip began more than a year ago, Sheryl said she wanted to develop a goal for the adventure–something that would help define its purpose in her mind. As someone who has not done much cross-country traveling, she said she is hoping to gain insight regarding the history of each town they visit.
“I want to learn about the people, the land, and the motivation that our predecessors had to have had to settle here,” she said. “Every town has a story to tell. And every town has locals who will want to share those tales. I want to listen and learn. From this, I hope to gain an experience that will stay with me forever.
“We want to relish in the spectacular views that the National Parks offer, enjoy the solitude and magnitude of the wide open spaces…and to experience things we have never seen or done before,” she added.
Bismarck, North Dakota was the first destination, with departure at 6:30 a.m. on June 3.
“From Minneapolis to North Dakota is not exactly what one would call scenic,” she said in her blog. “The flat, open, plowed fields along I-94 for hundreds of miles grew wearisome and we found it necessary to entertain ourselves with road games–you know the kind, where you count road kill and keep a tally of the numbers and species of animals that were not wise enough to look both ways before crossing the road. Desperate for entertainment I guess.”
While in Bismarck, the two stopped to visit friends before traveling on to the North Dakota Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Mendora, North Dakota, and Montana.
“We stopped in Missoula for a couple days to see a friend of mine and also because I wanted to interview him for an article that I am writing about his upcoming Marco Polo sheep hunt in Tajikistan,” Gallup said. “We went from there into British Columbia, then onto Alberta, Canada where we visited Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper.”
She said both she and Harlan are nearing retirement age, which fueled them to take the trip now. As the owner of an all-service advertising agency, Gallup was first introduced to the outdoors during her job as a media planner and buyer at Federal Cartridge in Anoka, Minnesota. She said she was hooked from that point on and couldn’t imagine life without experiencing nature. She opened her own business in 2003, but soon after were the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“September 11 occurred and business came to a complete stop because everyone was in a panic as to what would happen to the economy,” Gallup said. “Fortunately, I was recruited for a marketing manager position at Safari Club International and I packed up my boxes and my life and moved to Tucson, Arizona. I made it there for 10 months. I hated Tucson and wanted so badly to come back home to Minneapolis to be with my family and friends. When I came home, I was offered a media director position at an ad agency in St. Paul, Minnesota. I stayed there for five years, but my dream was still to reopen my business that I started in 2003.
“In 2010, I was laid off from the ad agency and it was just the kick in the butt I needed to re-establish my business,” she said. “I started with just a couple clients and today I have over a dozen. I love what I am doing now. The rewards of being a business owner and having responsibilities and commitments to my clients is so powerful.”
Gallup said in several days they wilI enter the Yukon, then into Alaska where they plan to tour for about six to eight weeks. The route home will consist of coming back down through British Columbia to Vancouver and also Victoria, through Washington, Montana, and back to Minnesota.
As far as concerns about the remainder of the trip, she joked her three biggest fears were bears, falling off a mountainside, and that her 18-year relationship will Harlan will not make it to 19 years after living in a cramped trailer on the road for three months.
“The further north we go, the more ‘wild’ the open places we visit (are),” Gallup said. “It isn’t about reading about these places, it’s about living it. I have no doubt at all that this journey will change me. It already has. I am more at peace with my life than I have been since I was young. Nature has a way of calming the beast in you.”
Image courtesy Sheryl Gallup