Don’t Drive the Alaska Highway

“You’re funny, sir.” 

This time I wasn’t thrilled to hear someone telling me I’m funny. The lady at the Watson Lake Visitor Center in Canada’s Yukon Territory wasn’t laughing, didn’t show a smile, not even a smirk.Justin Fricke on an unpaved section of the Alaska highway

I had been driving from Squamish in British Columbia Canada up to Fairbanks Alaska with my brother. This was day three of driving and by this point I was ready to be in Fairbanks and exploring Alaska. I had asked how much longer it’d take us to get to Fairbanks, I thought it’d take 10 or 11 hours. The lady at the visitor center, on the other hand, thought I was kidding and informed me that between swerving around potholes and slowing down for ice heaves, we also had to deal with road construction delays. And it’d realistically take another 20 hours.

She said it all in a tone like “You’re crazy for driving the Alaska Highway.” That’s not the first time I heard something like that. For about a year when I’d tell someone I’d be going to Alaska this year and driving the Alaska Highway it was always met with “I can’t believe you’re doing that!” and “How much spare gas are you taking?” and “I know some who did that a year or two ago. Had to replace all their tires, that road’s terrible!”

All those reactions from people made me wonder if Alaska was even feasible. That is, until Adam and I met Dennis in Texas this past February. Dennis is a retired man who drives an older Sprinter Van than ours around the country with his cat, Cathy, and rocks a license plate from South Dakota that reads U 4 JESUS. When we were done comparing build out notes, I asked him if he’d ever been to Alaska.

“Sure have, I love Alaska!” he said.

“And did you drive the Alaska Highway?” He looked at me with a little grin and said what I’d been waiting to hear.

“The Alaska Highway ain’t shit! Not since they paved the damn thing.”

The Alaska Highway is a highway like no other. It’s long days of dodging pot holes and getting a crash course in how to drive over something you never knew existed until a few hours beforehand, like an ice heave. But the reward for keeping your car on the road are beautiful sights, stopping to take pictures of bison, skating small bits of the deserted highway, listening to Harry Potter books on tape, and having conversations with your brother that you haven’t had in a long time.

The next day we rolled into Fairbanks. It didn’t take 20 hours, it only took 10 hours from Watson Lake. To be honest, it wasn’t really that bad at all.

We never came close to running out of gas. Gas didn’t come anywhere close to costing $6+/gallon. The drive wasn’t terribly boring and we didn’t die! It was fun.

Looking back on it all, I find it kind of funny that I worried about driving the Alaska Highway based on what others told me. All of whom had never driven the Alaska Highway themselves.

Take advice from someone who’s actually driven the Alaska Highway. Preferably more than once. If you’ve ever thought about driving to Alaska, go drive the Alaska Highway. That’s what Dennis told me in Texas and I’m glad I listened to him.

The Unity of Pokémon Go

I caught on to the craze a little late. In fact, I didn’t learn about Pokémon Go until I saw it pop up in my Facebook News between seeing updates about the numerous shootings going on.

Never have I ever seen the world so captivated by a video game. EVER. As of the time of this post being written, the app has over 7 million downloads! It’s causing users to get outside and hunt forPokémon so they can catch em all and users are buying portable chargers so they can play the game all day. It’s nuts!The Unity of Pokémon Go

Our country, and the world, has seen a lot of madness these past few weeks. Orlando’s still recovering from the biggest mass shooting in United States history, dozens of civilians have died in Iraq, we’re set on escalating a race war, and the lives of men and women wearing the blue badge are at stake even more than before. Saying we as a society have become divided would be an understatement, but that’s what we’re going with right now.

I was watching Casey Neistat’s Pokémon MANIA video on YouTube and there was one scene that stuck out to me. When asked why he’s playing the game, a gamer said that it’s communal. He didn’t know anyone he was hanging out with until that day and he met one other person the day before. They all were different races, but they’re hanging out and talking like they’re lifelong friends.

Their race didn’t matter

Pokémon Go has done more for us than any peace organization or speech from our elected leaders. It’s brought people together (an almost impossible feat) and has given us a small escape from the tragedies that have occurred. The game has had a calming effect on all of us. The social media posts have slowly shifted from hate to happiness. People are being social with each other, no matter the color of their skin or their language. We’ve been given a reason to talk with each other and we’re taking that opportunity without even knowing it.

I love mocking this game. But I also love whatPokémon Go has done for the world. And if it takes a new twist on a game that I played when I was in the 3rd grade to bring a calm and unity to the world, I’ll take it!

Blink 182 has a new album out andPokémon is the big game being played right now. What year is it again?

The Great American Road Trip

I open the Facebook app. on my phone and scroll through my feed. It’s how I get caught up with my previous life back in Florida. My friends post about their lives: the start of a new career, a baby just entered the world, one’s going back to school, looks like a wedding’s coming since a couple just got engaged.

My thumb taps the new Instagram icon revealing a plethora of photos. That burger and beer looks way better than the half packet of flavored rice and can of chicken I just inhaled. There’s a rope swing and a natural water slide in British Columbia? I’m bookmarking those spots in my brain, those places look awesome to visit on the way to Alaska. Oh look, Chris Burkard just posted another stunning photo of Iceland. Iceland looks rad, maybe I’ll go there one day.

Social media’s my form of entertainment on the road. It’s also my newsfeed at times. I’m lying, it’s my newsfeed almost all the time. I was born in 1990, I’m 26 years old, I’m a millennial, a millennial that makes a living by traveling. I’m the prime target for travel companies. I see a lot of the same ads you see on your newsfeed. The ones telling you and me that it’d be rad to visit Thailand and experience the little cities by vespa, that the climbing over the aqua blue water would feel incredible, and that I can eat cheap street food for every meal; as long as I can afford the flight there. Europe looks amazing in those ads too. I’ve had some friends visit Europe. Some of them did a study abroad program, others taught English as a second language, a few were a nanny to some rad kids for a summer, and then there’s a few that lived out of their backpack for a week or two; maybe even a month or two. They all tell me I’d love it there and I don’t disagree.

These travel ads have a way with altering perception. They do a terrific job at telling you and me that we need to go to another country to experience something amazing. Staying stateside in our own backyard is boring and that the only way to really have an adventure is to travel to another country, if only for a week or two.

Last week I was in Bend, OR for a few days. Bend is east of the Cascade Mountain Range and still part of the high desert. The days were sunny, the air was dry as the desert is, and it was warm during the day and cool at night. Adam found this awesome swimming hole called Blue Pool. It’s the most crystal clear blue body of water I’ve ever seen in photos and in person. You’d think we found it in a forest in Southeast Asia, but we barely drove an hour west into the Cascade Mountains and hiked two miles from the gravel parking lot to go swimming.Adam Fricke doing a swan dive into Blue Pool on a road trip

We kept driving west for a couple more hours until we were stopped by the edge of a jagged cliff with the Pacific Ocean crashing against the rough Central Oregon land. The temperature plummeted by 20 degrees and the wind carried little particles of salt from the ocean down below onto the land. Trees with different hues of green leaves surrounded me as I walked along the trails of the coastal forest.Road Trip view from Yachats Oregon

A couple days passed and I was walking along the cobblestone beaches of Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park along the coast of Washington. Back in Florida it was in the 90’s with high humidity on the 4th of July. And here I was walking around the Pacific Northwest fog wearing jeans and a hoodie watching fireworks across the jetty crack in the sky.Justin Fricke on a road trip through Rialto Beach

Everything’s so different than the place I left back in January. I thought I’d seen it all in the southeast, but come to find out that the southeast was my safety bubble. There’s so much more to see and experience outside of our safety bubbles and it turns out that you don’t need to own a passport to see something you’ve dreamt about seeing in photos or meet someone incredible along the way.

I want to visit every country in the world. I think there’s a lot of merit in meeting new people, learning about new cultures, and how the rest of the world lives. But did you know that there’s such a thing as Fry Sauce? I didn’t, they have it in Idaho, and it’s delicious.

So What? The Nifty Fifty Story

I bought a 50mm prime lens when I bought my first DSLR camera. The Nifty Fifty’s a staple in the bag of most photographers. I shot with it for a little bit and to be honest, hated it. Too much of my images got cropped out and I just never liked my images. My go-to has been my 24-70.Justin Fricke in Yachats Oregon, shot with a nifty fifty

The last time I attached my Nifty Fifty to my camera was in January. Adam and I were in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the greyness was optimal for a Nifty Fifty, but I hated it. I blamed it all on the lens. Nothing I wanted was in the frame, it wouldn’t focus well, the images looked terrible in my eyes, etc. I took off the lens and put my trusty 24-70 back on.

I think we tend to do that when something doesn’t go our way or turn out the way we want. We lay the blame on something else, make excuses, and hide beneath the covers and wait for the perfect situation to arise.

The weather sucks, the sleepies won’t leave the eyes, creativity isn’t flowing that day, there’s too many people, it’s too late in the day, or it’s too cold in the early morning hours. Those are some of the excuses I tell myself a lot. I think that’s fear talking and I’m trying out this new thing. I’m facing fear head on and I tend to win.

Winning’s fun and it can be addictive at times. I’m probably a lot like you when I say that I hate to lose. And for me fear tells me that I’m going to lose. It’s easy for me to want to stay inside my bubble and never face the day, hack away at a to-do list, never try something new, never grow as a human being. That’s easy and it’s easy to convince yourself to do something because it’s easy.

I’m trying out this thing called “so what.” So what if the weather sucks, if I’m not feeling creative, or if someone might wander into my bubble. I mean it can’t get any worse, right? It can only get better. If we step outside our comfort zone we take the risk of growing. Sure we might fail, but so what?

Last week I made it to the Central Coast of Oregon. The late afternoon sun was shining through the trees along the side of the cliff and the lighting was absolutely serene. I was by myself and wanted to take a stab at some self-portraits.Oregon Coast Trail shot on a nifty fifty

Landscape and action shots are usually my go-to, and it shows on my Instagram, but so what? My Nifty Fifty accumulated some dust, but so what? I took it out of my bag and set up some shots that I thought would look cool. And that guy that was going to settle for mediocre and not experiment with a new shot because fear said otherwise? What an idiot.

23 Easy Ways to be a National Park Jerk


painting on a rock in the Alabama Hills

  1. Take up lots of parking spaces at the Visitor Center with your compact car
  2. Leave food out and attract all the animals
  3. Take your massive RV on narrow roads
  4. Don’t hold the door open for the person behind you
  5. Walk 3 or 4, maybe 5 wide, on a trail
    1. Then walk really slow and hold up foot traffic
  6. Accidentally hit someone with your selfie stick while selfieing and don’t apologize
  7. Audibly complain about all the tourists; you’re not a tourist
  8. Stand too close to a crumbly edge
  9. Play your music loud on the trail; everyone wants to hear it
  10. Tell everyone how stupid they are for using technology
  11. Hold up traffic while admiring the wildlife
  12. Run up to and try to pet the wildlife
  13. Put a bison calf in your car because it looks cold
  14. Keep your dog off leash
    1. It’s better off running around off leash
    2. This way it doesn’t have to take a s#!t on the trail
  15. Never walk on the safety of boardwalks that keep you from falling into boiling hot, hot springs
  16. Tell as many strangers as you can about how many National Scenic Trails you’ve thru hiked
  17. Stand really close to the person in front of you, heavily breathing down their neck, while waiting for the shuttle bus
  18. Fart on the shuttle bus
  19. Risk your life and go anywhere to get an awesome photo for the gram
  20. Cut someone in line while waiting to use the bathroom
  21. Complain audibly loud about the terrible cell phone reception
    1. Make a non-emergency phone calls, because YOLO
  22. Build a new fire ring anywhere you want, we always need new scars on the land
  23. Enhance and create “art” in our natural spaces

Don’t be a National Park Jerk

You Can’t Change The World

There isn’t much music I like. Pop punk where the standard dress is skinny jeans and the median age of listeners is 14. And white boy rap, though I’m not sure that’s the politically correct terminology. Towards the top of that list is Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I wasn’t really a fan of these guys until their latest album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. There’s one specific song on the album I’ve been listening to religiously this year and I think it really hits home after the events that unfolded in Orlando this past weekend.Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park

You’ve probably already heard by now that Orlando was once The City Beautiful and now has the mark on it as being the city where the worst mass shooting in United States history occurred. Orlando’s an underdog city, Orlando will bounce back, and Orlando’s still The City Beautiful (you can read more about that here). In the wake of this tragedy it seems like we’re all jumping to make a difference; we want to change the world.

You Can’t Change The World

You’re too small, I’m too small, we’re all insignificant. If we all had our own agenda to change the world, we’d all be fighting the battle alone. It kind of goes along with that saying “Too many chiefs and not enough indians.” Again, probably politically incorrect, you get the idea.

In a song to his daughter, Macklemore tells her to: find what she loves, do it every day, and eventually the world will change. Think of it this way. If you’re in a relationship it probably happened like this: You were searching profusely for Mr./Ms. Right and eventually gave up. But when you gave up you decided to spend more time with yourself and you became a happier you. In that time you probably learned to put your guard down and then Mr./Ms. Right came along and proverbially swept you off your feet. And if Mr./Ms. Right literally swept you off your feet, I’m jealous.

Doing what you love puts you in a loving mood. And love is contagious. Chances are, when you’re doing what you love, you end up helping someone else find what they love or invite them to join in on whatever makes you so obnoxiously happy. Basically you show someone else love. And showing love to someone is the easiest way to change the world.

“…Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love and do it every day. Do that for the rest of your life and eventually, the world will change.” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

How to See America by Postcard

The following post is sponsored by Pursuit Watches.

At the beginning of this yearlong road trip with my brother, I was looking for something new to create. Something I could look forward to in each state that would challenge me as an artist and explorer. It took six weeks and nine states to figure it out.Julia Pfieffer State Park Waterfall by postcard

I’d been saying it for a while; I wanted to see the places in America that you only see on a postcard. Postcard in hand above Hot Springs National Park, it all came together. I’d buy a postcard and find the location where the photo was taken, and recreate it with the postcard.

Now it’s become my obsession. Anytime we’re in a new place I’m on the hunt for a postcard. But finding a postcard view doesn’t come without its challenges. This is how I go about finding that postcard view:


Some areas are going to yield more postcard views than others. Your job is to figure out what’s going to be best. Plan to find a specific area, where the sight’s plain obvious. Cities are hard to find because they’re always changing whereas a rock spire or a fallen rock is going to stay there, hopefully, for years to come.Big Sur California Postcard

Ask Questions

Certain locations are easy to find just by looking at the photo. Other locations are harder to find. Take a look at the top left corner on the back of the postcard; there’s a description and sometimes it’ll give you a specific place that you can plug into Google Maps. When all else fails, ask someone at the store if they can give you directions to the specific location.

Know the Time of Day

Timing is crucial. Knowing when to get to the location is crucial when you’re trying to catch the light at the right time. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the location to set up and be ready for the light to be just right.

And enjoy the location!Death Valley National Park Daunte's View postcard

Have an Understanding of Photography

A basic understanding of photography goes a long way. You’ll be able to make sure everything’s composed well, is sharp, and that the background isn’t blown out and blurry. You want the postcard to be the focus, but you also want to be able to recognize that the background is the same location as what’s on the postcard.

These are the settings I prefer:


1/200 sec or faster

ISO 100

Again, those are my ideal settings, but I’ll adjust for the light and setting as I see fit, and so should you.Death Valley National Park Postcard

Be Prepared

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get to some locations. And then you’ll be even more surprised at how difficult it is to find, and get to, others. Make sure you have plenty of water, snacks, and be aware of your surroundings so you don’t get lost trying to get that epic photo.

Whether you’re looking for something to do on a road trip or are trying to spice up a weekend, get out there and find a postcard view. You never know what you may find unless you get out there!

This post is sponsored by Pursuit Watches. Take a look at their stylish line of watches for the man and woman that wants to get out and explore what’s out there.

The Majesty of The Wave

If you have no interest in reading about The Wave, but want to feel like you’re there, scroll to the bottom to watch the video.

At work I had been upgraded to a brand new computer with Windows 7. The standard Windows background wasn’t working for me and I started browsing through backgrounds that came with my computer. I stumbled across this desert scene with a puddle in the middle of the photo. I’d never been to the desert so it was something new to look at for eight hours of my day.The Wave from The Wave View

A co worker walked past my cube and caught a glimpse of my desktop background. I was the outdoors guy around the office and she assumed I had taken the photo. Humbly I told her it wasn’t my photo, that I didn’t even know where it was, but I wanted to see it one day.

Fast forward 4 years to this past Friday as I was trekking over the slick rock of the Arizona desert with a pack on my back and a treasure map in my hand. Adam and I hiked for about an hour until we reached the crevice that’d lead us into The Wave.

Chills ran down my spine as I set my eyes on my previous Windows 7 background that I’d stared at for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, for 4 years. I walked in to find windswept sandstone lines surrounding me. I couldn’t speak, partially because I needed water and that I was mesmerized by this place.

Once I filled my belly with some trail snacks and some water wet my whistle, I started exploring The Wave itself. Taking photos of the standard “Wave View” and then stumbling around looking at all the different lines until venturing out beyond The Wave.Line on the canyon walls of The Wave

I was walking along a sandstone wall with ridges carved into it as the wind picked up and blew threw my hair leaving some sand for me to find on my pillow the next morning. Brochures and textbooks tell us how nature’s carved out this work of art over the years, but nothing quite brings it all into perspective until you feel the wind sweeping along the canyon walls.Adam Fricke setting up a time lapse at The Wave

Adam set up a time lapse while I wandered out to the front again to admire in person what I had admired behind my desk for 4 years. The Wave is truly nature’s work of art and it’s hard express in words, and even photos, the true majesty and beauty of this place. The long and confusing hike out there makes seeing the curving lines along the canyon lines with the best colors painted on the sandstone rock so much more worth it. With so many people trying to see The Wave for themselves, it’s becoming harder and harder to win a permit. So if you find yourself with a case of wanderlust or want to come close to seeing The Wave in person, Adam and I made this for you.Windows 7 desktop background of The Wave

Welcome to The Wave

How to Stay Clean on the Road

This post is sponsored by Epic Wipes, their heavy duty wet wipes are a great way to stay clean while traveling or get clean real quick after a big day of exploring. And be sure to check out their kickstarter campaign on their website.

Summer road trip season’s upon us along with backpacking, camping, beach, festivals, mountain biking, and all around outdoor season. Let’s face it, there’s nothing holding us back from going outside and having fun. Three days of sleeping out of your car, you probably start to smell that all too familiar funky smell. You know what I’m talking about.Epic Giant Wet Wipes help you stay clean on the road

After days of fun with no showers, you lift your arms and catch a whiff of what you hope is the person standing next to you, but it’s not, that repulsive stench is coming from you. You quickly try to cover it up with deodorant and go on with the fun, knowing full well in the back of your head that you smell terrible.

Here are a few, less expensive, ways you can cure that funk while you’re on the road this summer.

Sink Bath

There’s nothing glamorous about this and chances are you won’t get a heap of like on Instagram if you take a photo of this momentous occasion. Grab a small bottle of shampoo and head into the bathroom of a chain coffee shop or fast food joint. Get your hair wet and start scrubbing.While you’re there, you might want to take a stab at cleaning your pits and nether regions. That is where a lot of the stench is coming from, after all. Bypass the paper towels and go for the hair dryer, if available.

Doing this in a big box retailer that sells soap and shampoo may get you stopped by security.

Creek/River/Lake Shower

All the creeks and rivers are flowing into lakes in the summer. The cold water running off the mountains makes for one, let’s call it refreshing, shower. If this is the way you’re going to get clean, make sure you’re using soap that’s designed for this and that won’t pollute the environment.

Rain Shower

They don’t call them summer showers for nothing. Throw on your swimsuit when the rains come a pourin’ and later up in the street. Again, make sure the soap you’re using won’t pollute the environment.

Wet Wipe Bath

Getting clean using baby wipes is always a go-to alternative. The only problem is that you burn through multiple wipes to get clean. I like to use Epic Wipes. These things are gigantic and you’ll only need one to wipe off that funky smell. They’re also portable making it a no brainer to throw one, or a few, in your bag.Epic Massive Wet Wipes help you stay clean on the road

Deal With the Funk

Eventually you’ll get used to your smell and chances are no one else around you cares because they’re possibly being offended by their own terrible smell.

This post is sponsored by Epic Wipes. Product was provided as compensation and all thoughts are my own.

They Don’t Want Us to Win – So We Goin’ Win More

Back in Nashville my friend Ben talked about DJ Khaled’s Snapchat account. He said DJ Khaled’s pretty funny, but also inspirational. I immediately started following him and since February I’ve been watching DJ Khaled’s snaps religiously when I have cell service. He’s all about making sure we win, staying away from they, and winning more. Oh and making sure you never play yourself; whatever that means.Sunset at San Clemente State Beach

A couple weeks ago my life changed. No one close to me died and I wasn’t diagnosed with cancer. Instead I lost my home, my mode of transportation, and the way I make a living. A valet driver drove my sprinter van into a parking garage that didn’t yield enough clearance for my van. The reason I had to valet it is because I couldn’t fit my van in there on my own, but apparently the valet driver thought he could. Either way, 3+ weeks of repairs and thousands of dollars of damage was caused.

This created a huge fiasco for my brother and me and kept us holed up in Scottsdale, AZ dealing with insurance companies, insurance adjusters, repairs shops, and a bunch of other things we’d rather to have never dealt with.

On Tuesday I seriously thought about throwing in the towel, calling it quits, and going back home with my tail between my legs. That’s they talking, according to DJ Khaled. They want me to fail. They don’t want me to win and I was starting to listen to they.

In order to stand out from the rest you have to do something to stand out from the rest. We live in a noisy world and we have to do something crazy to stand out. It’s almost like we have to figuratively scream the loudest in order to get through the noise.

Quitting to go back home because the road got rough would be doing easy and safe. Listening to they, admitting defeat, and settling for average.

Fast forward to Saturday and I was packing up our rental RV with Adam. Somehow, with a little help from our friends, we found a way to rent an RV while the Sprinter Van’s getting fixed so that we don’t lose more time on the road.

Quitting is easy, but dreams never come easy. If that were the case all dreams would come true. That’s what I’m learning. Just because the road looks smooth doesn’t mean it’s going to be smooth. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take that road.

They Don’t Want Us to Win – So We Goin’ Win More – DJ Khaled