There was at least one frightening incident where I feared we would die. We were making our way across a bridge over the Knik River, a long, braiding river that bumps shoulders with the Turnagain arm before leading deep into the Chugach mountains. Once in the mountain’s shadow, it veers to the left and past Eklutna, a small Native Alaskan village centered by a Russian Orthodox Church. Bright blue, red and yellow wooden tombs push their way out of snow drifts. We had just past the village when we reached the metal bridge, which was swaying in the Chinook winds that had assaulted Anchorage and the surrounding valleys along the Arm since morning. The snow was beginning to turn to powder and disappear. The air was unseasonably warm; ice sculptures of horses in the town square downtown had started melting, turning into grotesque, tortured looking gargoyles.
My chest started to tighten once Gary drove our old white Aerostar onto the bridge. The wind was already beating on the van’s metal doors, rocking it back and forth. Gary’s hands turned red gripping the wheel, his brows furrowed and his lips set in concentration. Around us cars and trucks swerved and almost fishtailed. I heard Xander in his carseat say in a small voice that he was scared. I closed my eyes and told him it would be okay. It was six o’clock and already dark and had been for two hours; we hadn’t reached our first solstice yet. The light wouldn’t start regaining its blue and white momentum until the next week, right before Christmas.
We were halfway across the bridge when I felt the van’s tires squeal a bit, and saw in my head the small metal studs on the black tires straining to catch the icy road. A huge blast of wind sailed up the river and under us, lifting the van just slightly off the road and into the air. Gary struggled to regain control once the van bumped back onto the road. We had landed so close to the guard rails, which seemed despairingly short. The river below, what I could see of it, was gray and choppy. A long way down. I started to cry, all of my strength and reserve blown away in the Chinook wind. When he heard my tears Xander started to cry, too. Gary stared at the road and deftly drove the van in a straight line toward home. We made it there without any more incident.
(all photos by Gary)