I love it when people chase me down and want to share their latest and greatest discovery for Alaska exploration. It’s how Alaskans work best, I think, and when we’re excited about something, it shows; like new and innovative methods for keeping kids engaged and less likely to be slugging it out in the backseat while tooling Alaska’s highways. Check this out:
A sound engineer friend slapped a CD into my hand yesterday while AK Fam was lunching at her beautiful home. Music? Not hardly, this sound sensation is an audio guide to the Seward Highway, an 18-track, locally-produced listening wonder that will make the drive from Anchorage to Seward seem like new, every time. Not just a mile-by-mile report of landmarks, this audio guide is full of tales and stories about the people and industry that shaped the southcentral region, with a bit of national Scenic Byway information thrown in for good measure. Narrated by Lori Townsend, an Alaska Public Radio icon, the CD is a breezy yet very personal reading of a stretch of road most Alaskans drive without a thought. I bet they’ll think, now, after listening to the tracks about Potter Marsh, Whittier, the 1964 Earthquake, and Russians on the Kenai.
Newcomers and visitors will appreciate the candor through which writer/producer Jenny Murray explains Alaska’s sometimes violent history, with enough rootin’ tootin’ action for appeal by kids and adults. I listened to the entire 45-minute CD this morning during the daily schlep to and from school, and AK Kid, a particularly discriminating 7 year-old, found it interesting as heck, so much so that I had to promise not to listen to another track until after school. How’s that for endorsement?
The Seward Highway Audio Guide is available through Alaska Audio Guides, an Anchorage-based company that offers both a CD ($22.95) or a MP3 version available for download ($10.95) through the website. One can also purchase single tracks and the guide (though without the enclosed map or written guide) on Amazon or iTunes. I recommend the map and guide, though; way more fun for kids to be able to trace the route visually while listening to Ms. Townsend’s stories.
A second guide has, honestly, been sitting in the glove compartment for some time, waiting for our return to the Glenn Highway, north and east of Anchorage. Produced by the folks at the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway, an organization committed to the preservation and promotion of this beautiful section of Alaska. With its awesome cover emblazoned with a bright red Woody station wagon (I’m a sucker for retro), the Glenn Highway Personal Audio Guide features music by Alaska’s singing icon, Hobo Jim, and has a more factual account of the sights one will see, from Anchorage to the Little Nelchina River at Milepost 137.5, the highway’s terminus.
AK Fam procured our copy of the Glenn Highway guide through the MatSu Visitor Center at the junction of the Glenn and Parks highways (Wasilla/Palmer), and enjoyed utilizing its facts all the way to Sheep Mountain Lodge at Milepost 113.5. We like the fact that the audio tour begins right in downtown Anchorage, and although some of the information is a bit dated (the CD has a welcome note and photo from none other than Sarah Palin; guess it’ll be a collectable some day, huh?), the gist remains true. The CD is free, funded by America’s Byways, so don’t worry about paying a bunch for a CD recorded in 2006. It stil works fine.
Next time you’re headed up or down the road, take your trippin’ up a notch by popping in this CD, turning on the iPad, and handing each of the kids a map. Ahhh, hear that? Learning as you go. My favorite way to vacation.