Journeymen presenters like yours truly have run the gauntlet in the professional speaking world, from one night stands in San Angelo, Texas to addressing 40,000 in the Super Dome in New Orleans at a Positive Thinking Rally.
Nothing against Wenatchee, WA, Bangor, ME or Lexington, SC, but these aren’t the destination spots of the larger conventions or meeting destinations. Come along for a moment with my bride and me when we visited Alaska in the nineties for a series of speaking gigs.
Alaska is a state with just over three quarter million people, over 405,000 of whom are located in the Anchorage/Mat-Su Economic Region. Anchorage itself is home to approximately 300,000.
The United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867 for $7.2 million, approximately two cents per acre, a pretty fair deal even in that century.
The area went through a number of administrative changes before becoming organized first as a territory on May 11, 1912. It was not until January 3, 1959 that it became the 49th state of the US.
Alaska is the northwest extremity of North America and it borders British Columbia, Canada, which is the farther northwest yours truly had ever ventured. It was Vancouver where I won the World Championship of Public Speaking in 1978.
While Alaska is easily the largest state in the U.S. (twice the size of Texas), it is the third least populated. In fact, Alaska is larger than all but 18 sovereign countries and bigger than the combined area of Texas, California and Montana. So I guess size does matter.
Known widely as the last frontier, the sheer immensity of the state blows away the closest competition. Most of it remains uninhabited.
The float plane is a popular mode of transportation. I recall the adventure that my wife Christine and I had going to some of the outer extremities. We actually landed in a guy’s front yard for a pit stop and to drop off supplies and mail to the locals.
Only a similar trip to India was more unusual. I was there speaking on behalf of the American Society of Travel Agents and one of the side trips was by “limo” (I use the term loosely). It was more like a broken down junker. Fortunately for us, our venture was prior to the “60 Minutes” news story about all the kidnappings that go on in the nether regions of Asia.
Alaska was far more beautiful and much less bountiful than India, whose population is approaching 1.5 billion people, right on the heels of China and four times that of the U.S.
Truth be known, I would have paid my client to make that trip. Friends of mine suggest that the best way to visit is by Alaska is on a cruise ship. In fact, my in-laws celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on an Alaskan cruise.
We visited in October and I recall it only started snowing the day we departed — Halloween as it happened. The summer and early fall is kind to Alaskan visitors. Occasionally, you can garner last minute savings of up to 75 percent on vacant spots on a ship.
What do you call an Alaskan in a BCS Bowl Game? The referee. They get worse folks! You know you’re in Alaska when your vet bill is more than your medical bill!
How do you know you’re an Alaskan? You have more miles on your snowmobile than you do your car… and you owe more money on it as well! What happened during the great Anchorage power outage? Dozens of shoppers were stranded on the escalator for hours until help arrived.
There are four seasons in Alaska: 1- Winter, 2-Winter, 3- Winter and 4- Construction. You know you’re in Alaska when your car’s trunk doubles as a deep freezer, or you have to put your sun visor down at 3 a.m.
And my personal favorite: How do you know you’re in Alaska? You know which leaves make excellent toilet paper.
Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist and writes a weekly column for this newspaper. To contact Michael Aun, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.