Roots on the Rails Alaska
September 8-16, 2019 Anchorage - Talkeetna - Denali National Park - Kantishna - Kenai Fjords - Anchorage DAVE ALVIN with JIMMIE DALE GILMORE, JON LANGFORD, Rick Shea and Christy McWilson Thanks so much for your interest in this trip! Response has been robust! This trip is currently full, but we are happy to add you to our waiting list. Life is complicated, and we do typically get people who need to cancel – some fairly soon after enthusiastically plonking down a deposit when they realize they are already scheduled for this time frame, and others because something comes up further down the road.
As openings come up, we’ll be offering them to folks on the wait list in the order they signed up, so “purchase” your waiting list spot (it costs nothing, but ensures we have an accurate record of when you signed up and how we can reach you) through our online store here: Put me on the waiting list!
And we’ll be in touch as soon as openings arise.
Join Dave, Jimmie Dale, Rick and Christy as we head north to Alaska to commune with grizzlies, glaciers, and every natural wonder in between! This will be Dave's first time to Alaska, so if you've ever been tempted to go (or feel the call to return!) you'll be seeing it alongside someone who has traveled every inch of the lower 48, and still delights in every new discovery.
We've packed highlights from the two separate trips we have offered in the past into one epic journey -- from the funky little town of Talkeetna (inspiration for the TV show Northern Exposure, and home to honorary mayor Denali The Cat), to the six million acres of wild land that comprises Denali National Park and the 92 mile ribbon of gravel road (all but the first few miles are gravel, and forbidden to private automobile) that takes us through high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, alongside North America's tallest peak, 20,320 foot Mt. Denali, to the final milepost, and our home for two nights - the legendary Kantishna Roadhouse. After a return to Anchorage, we head down the Kenai Peninsula where we'll get up close and personal with glaciers, delight in the bobbing sea otters of Resurrection Bay, and learn about Alaska's vast and diverse marine ecosystems.
We've done our best to cover it all -- mountains and ocean, grizzlies and puffins, city and vast emptiness -- and set it to a soundtrack that is worthy of its majesty.
And trains! Yes, we'll be riding trains! Two of the Alaska Railroad's premier routes: The Denali Star and the Coastal Classic, where we'll have our own deluxe, glass-topped Gold Star rail car with delicious, made-to-order meals on board and a private, open-air viewing platform from which to capture the sights and sounds of this astoundingly beautiful landscape.
The music and the musicians? Only the finest. You'll get to witness the extraordinary musical genius of Dave Alvin; the calm, cosmic and compelling Jimmie Dale Gilmore; Dave's long-time sideman and a killer songwriter in his own right, Rick Shea, whose musical chops are not to be messed with; and the stirring and soulful Christy McWilson. After traveling many miles over the years with all of them, we can confirm that they are as personable, generous, and convivial as traveling companions can get -- we're going to have a great time! Adventures by day, musical brilliance by night -- what could possibly be better?
Our group - numbering no more than fifty hardy souls - will journey together most days by comfortable chartered motorcoach at a reasonable pace, stopping for "critter breaks", with no one day's coach travel longer than 3 hours, with the one exception of the trip out to Kantishna Roadhouse on the lodge buses, which while somewhat lacking in luxury, are piloted by expert wildlife spotters and interpreters who bring a level of incredible expertise and fun to the day's adventure. They stop for frequent leg-stretching and photography breaks, use of facilities at various visitors centers and scenic overlooks -- and of course they jam on the brakes whenever a grizzly comes strolling up alongside the bus or two rutting bull moose are blocking the road (yup, that's happened!).
This is a great time to visit Alaska! We'll be there in that brief window between when the cruise ships have sailed south, the tourists have mostly vacated, the bugs are gone, and the weather is still reasonable. It will likely be cool by day, chilly by night, and because it is Alaska we will get rained on at some point, but the fall tundra colors will be spectacular! Our feeling is that, for many travelers, a trip to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not do it right?
This trip is not cheap, but it far exceeds the standard Alaska tour experience. Music aside, most travelers stay at hotels along the highway, and take tours that skim the surfaces of all there is to see and do. We have run five previous trips to Alaska, and have seen foraging grizzlies, enormous moose, eagles, caribou, whales, otters, seals, sea lions -- and if you count the critters at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where we make a stop: baby musk ox, lynx, wolves and many others! We've gone on guided hikes (easy, moderate or strenuous as you wish), marveled at the enormity of Denali itself (some took small-plane rides over Denali’s flank); others went mountain biking, fly fishing or gold panning. In both 2015 and 2017 we were treated to the rare sight of an entirely cloudless Denali - an utterly stunning vision (that's where we snapped the promo photo for this trip). We've held chunks of a recently calved glacier in our hands, smelled a puffin colony up close (not entirely pleasant, but memorable!), been licked by Iditarod sled dogs, and sunk up to our knees in the squishy tundra. Alaska is one of the world's greatest living adventures, and we hope you'll join us!
If you wish to stay an additional night or two in Anchorage and continue your Alaskan adventure on your own, we are happy to book additional nights for you at our group rate, just advise of your needs upon making a reservation.
DAVE ALVIN - "There are two types of folk music: quiet folk music and loud folk music. I play both," says Dave Alvin. One of the great writers and performers in American music, Dave Alvin draws from blues, country and folk traditions to make music uniquely his own. First emerging in the LA roots/punk scene as a member of The Blasters, The Flesh Eaters, and later X, Alvin has gone on to play with a veritable who's who of rock and folk, and, more recently, to forge a mighty solo career. This is his eleventh Roots on the Rails trip.
JIMMIE DALE GILMORE - Jimmie has been writing and playing songs for over 50 years, blending elements of folk, country, blues, and bluegrass and defying categorization. He is a three-time Grammy nominee and was named Country Artist of the Year by Rolling Stone Magazine. Along with Joe Ely and Butch Hancock, Gilmore’s legendary band, The Flatlanders, has been credited as fathers of the Alt-country movement. In 2018, Jimmie and Dave released their collaborative album, "Downey to Lubbock" and toured the nation together -- and they're showing no signs of letting up! This will be Jimmie’s tenth Roots on the Rails trip. We like him a lot.
JON LANGFORD - Our favorite Welshman (take that Tom Jones!) Jon is a founder member of the Mekons And Waco Brothers, and has been an originator/instigator for a fascinating collection of diverse musical projects including The Wee Hairy Beasties, Jon Langford's Four Lost Soul, Skull Orchard and too many others to list here. He juxtaposes his punk roots with folk music from around the globe with seemingly limitless joy and enthusiasm. Jon is also an accomplished and in-demand visual artist who has lived and painted in Chicago for the last 25 years.
RICK SHEA - "When I was younger Merle Haggard cast a long shadow, but since then Dave Alvin, Jim Ringer and a lot of other music has found its way in," says Rick Shea. Raised in San Bernadino, California, Shea's brand of storytelling cuts to the quick, and his extraordinary guitar work raises the bar even higher. He has toured as a member of Dave Alvin's Guilty Men and has become one of Roots on the Rails' most requested performers. Rick hosts the Open Mic sessions with grace, good humor, and top-notch honky-tonk chops.
CHRISTY McWILSON - Christy first made a name for herself in late-century Seattle bands the Dynette Set and the Picketts. In 2000 Dave Alvin approached her with an offer to produce her first solo album, made up of her originals and a heartfelt, lovely cover of Brian Wilson's "Til I Die." The album, The Lucky One, was recorded with a core band that included Alvin, Peter Buck, and Rick Shea on guitars; Bob Glaub and Walter Singleman on bass; and Don Heffington on drums. Two years later, she called on many of the same musicians to help her put together her second solo album, Bed of Roses.