The AlCan Highway

I just finished watching the new PBS documentary about the making of the Alaska Canada Highway. This highway is very close to my heart. The first time I traveled it was in utero, and there were two more times after that.

And there was still a lot I didn’t know about how it was constructed. For example, the reason they are showing this documentary right NOW is because it’s black history month. And the highway was contructed by a lot of black engineers and regiments. It was really the first time the army had allowed black soldiers to be engineers and to operate big machinery.

I sure didn’t know that growing up in Alaska.

Building roads, building methods of transportation is a hugely important task. More than just tanks and trucks, the ability to transfer necessary things from one place to a far place is something we’ve been perfecting at higher and higher rates of success.

First it was trails, then horse and wagon trails. Ships cut distance over the waters, and then sails gave way to engines that could pull gargantuan loads.

Trains ate up the land. Then, because we moved away from the regimented standardization that trains required, we all got cars and built highways.

Let’s not forget planes. And sattelites.

At the moment, packages and information are shooting around the world at incredible rates, unthinkably fast and with a phenomenal success rate.

Did we do that? who did that? Was it us? Maybe it was.

Right now my meandering thoughts are being sent over the internet for anyone in the world to read. I live in America, where I am not censored, so those thoughts can flow and fly to anywhere in the world unchecked.

I was talking with Chris about how the Alcan highway was built, and I called out all the problems they were going to encounter before they hit them.

“Maybe the Russians would have known how to build a road over the permafrost,” I said.

But no. The Russians did not build roads. They gave up on the permafrost problem and stuck to planes. Planes flew in the goods for whoever lived far away.

When it was the monarchy, the technology wasn’t even there yet to need the roads built. They started the Siberian railroad, that’s as far as they got. Stuck on the standardization, no surprise.

But the Soviets didn’t avoid roads just because of the permafrost. They had concerns with the idea of allowing people access to get in their cars and just go somewhere. That sort of freedom was a bad idea in their minds. Keep people where there were, where you knew where to find them.

The ability to get around and the ability to get your deas and your stuff around is very powerful.

I am truly grateful for the men who build the Alcan highway. It got me around, that’s for sure.