Excerpt for What if... Why not? Through the Doors of Adventure. by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

What if…Why not?

walking through the doors of adventure

Written by

Kevin E. Beasley

Copyright 2013 by Kevin E Beasley

Print Version ISBN 978-0-6158-6986-5

Smashwords Edition

Published by Kevin E Beasley at Smashwords

Find me at facebook.com/kevinebeasley

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This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.”

I could never acknowledge in a few lines all of the people who have allowed this to become a reality...

Scott Hunter, Keith Caprara, Larry and Sharon Hale, Kevin and Sonya Yates, and Peter Goodwin, thank you so much for your encouragement and support over the years.

Julie, Grace, Gabe, Daniel and Susana Beasley, thank you for putting up
with my time away from home.

Chelsie Stulz, Melanie Patterson, Kim Vantrease, Sonya Yates Lindsay Devenbeck, and Steven Dixon thank you for all of your hard work that made this book possible.

And thanks to all those I've journeyed with in the faith for the past twenty-five years.
There's nothing on Earth like God's people.

Thanks to my mom and dad who allowed me to be me when it didn't make a lot of sense.

Most of all, thank the Maker and His Son Redeemer for giving me the
only thing worth living and dying for!

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Alaska or Bust!

Chapter 2: The Ark of the Pavement

Chapter 3: From Colorful to Majestic

Chapter 4: The Pivot Point

Chapter 5: Dancing on the Glacier

Chapter 6: The Journey Home

Chapter 7: Adventures with New Best Friends

Chapter 8: A Celebration to Remember

Chapter 9: My New Friend

Chapter 10: Loosening the Grip of Grief

Chapter 11: My First Encounter with the Heroes

Chapter 12: The First Hours in the Wilderness

Chapter 13: Our Place

Chapter 14: Rites of Passage and Family Ties

Chapter 15: The Angel in Dreads

Chapter 16: The Ridge Runners

Chapter 17: My Next Adventure

The Conclusion Up To Now

About the Author

Connect with Me


People are not like numbers. They are more like letters. And letters want to become stories and stories are made to be shared.” - Jonathan Safran Foer in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (the movie)

I love telling stories.

The only thing better than telling stories is living them. And I have lived no better stories than the ones I have experienced in the Last True Wilderness: Alaska. Therefore, my favorite stories to tell are those I have collected there. One week in Alaska yields a dozen tales, which can be told for years to come; new twists and turns reveal themselves each time I remember an Alaskan adventure.

I have hesitated to put these stories into writing— partly due to laziness and partly because of the amazing Alaskan stories I have read from others over the years. I have only spent a total of eighty-two days, over seven trips, in this virtually untouched wonderland. How captivating can a couple of months worth of stories be when set beside tales of heroism and bravery such as those of Dick Proenneke, who invested a large portion of his life to solitude and study of southwest Alaskan wildlife, weather and wilderness? How could anyone find any return investing time in a journal such as mine after reading of the dangers and adventure of Christopher McCandless and his untimely death in the early 90s? What heart could be mended any tighter after listening to the tragedy and redemption of Jeremy Davis and his family after the sudden loss of three of their children on a wintry day on Lake Clark a few short years ago? No one!

I have decided to write these stories not to impress readers or compete with those who have gone before and certainly not to compare my stories to their experiences, for I have nothing to compare. I simply write to share— although my experiences may not be life shattering for you, they have made me who I am. If only my family reads them, the tales will have served well.

I am who I am because of a place on the map that opened up my heart to hear. The place did not make me, it simply cracked me wide open so the Maker could shake me and wake me up to the reality of who I am…and more importantly, Who He is.

For that reason I am grateful to the place and more grateful to the Maker. He is the teller of these tales. He is the artist who painted, with both broad strokes and intricate detail, a picture that cannot be fully explained without a journey into the story itself. You have your own work of art…your own story. Whether that masterpiece is a place such as Alaska or a person such as your spouse or best friend, you must explore it in order to truly understand it. It should be mined for the treasure that lies within, and then it must be communicated to be shared.

For those of you who are considering an adventure north, I say do not deprive yourself of what no other place can offer. But whether you are in Alaska or your own backyard…Go! Live. Rest. Breathe.

Alaska is not the only place to escape the trappings of a busy life; there may be other places just as fitting.

My trips are not unique; they resemble the same journey all of us take throughout life. Yours are no less dramatic than the tales you will read here and no less important. It’s the journey into manhood or womanhood, into freedom from bondage, into hope from hopelessness, from independence to interdependence. It is the pathway through the door of hope—it is the place where the spirit of who we will be collides with the reality of who is. Are these stories singular or plural…yes. It’s one journey with many stops along the way.

Frederick Buechner in his memoir, Telling Secrets says, “My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.” That’s how I feel about these stories—and that’s why I write them.

So, journey with me through simple stories that have made me a more simple man. Consider the lessons the Maker has shared with me through these journeys and see if He has something for you. Keep your heart open and your awareness keen; it is not I who tells tales that can melt a frozen heart, it is He. He may choose to use one of these simple stories and He may not. They are just my feeble offering in response to the wonderful gift He has given me…ADVENTURE!

Chapter 1: Alaska or Bust!

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” - Helen Keller

Adventure is about what we do; not what we plan, strategize or dream about. Adventure begins with “what ifs” and “why nots.” 

“What if I were to step out to chase that dream?”  

“Why not take the first steps and see what happens?” 

When we step through the doorway of adventure our life is suddenly worth the living. And we experience life as it was meant to be. But every journey starts with a first step. And my first shaky step was as a young starry-eyed college student.

Every young man feels deep within himself a longing for more. It hovers around his heart like a nagging housefly. It is that elusive fulfillment which he can’t seem to apprehend. This familiar feeling is particularly vocal in early adulthood when almost every major life decision is screaming for an answer to the looming questions of life. How am I going to spend the rest of my days? Who will be the woman I marry? What career should I pursue? Will I have what it takes to make a difference? Will my life have any meaning? Significance is the moving target for which a young man’s wavering arrow is aimed and he doubts whether he has the accuracy and range to hit its mark. “Do I have what it takes?” he asks himself. That’s where I found myself in the winter of 1996.

There are only a few times from our first breath to our last that a short sentence will change the course of forever.

“I’m going to Alaska and I think you are supposed to go with me,” Scott said with a stark air of confidence.

This pivotal moment in my life occurred about a week into a fifteen-day period set aside for spiritual focus. Three young men and I were meeting together to pray and listen for spiritual direction that would direct our young stallion hearts toward the life we were meant to live.

We were pursuing bachelor’s degrees in a quaint university in north Alabama, but we were restless: anxious to change the world and hungry to experience significance and adventure. The kind of adventure a young man thinks only comes from fighting battles and courting maidens. Confused about our identity and passionate about our faith, we were looking for meaning and purpose; longing for the adventure that would propel us into the rest of our lives; waiting for it to be revealed and walking shoulder to shoulder hoping it would come within this two-week experiment.

The four of us found ourselves wrestling with these questions and hoping for some direction as we gathered in the little three-bedroom apartment. For at least two hours each night we sat in silence and asked the Maker for a clue to the rest of our lives. Fifteen days of fasting and praying in that little college apartment: the hours passed in quietness to the human ear, but as time moved on, the four of us realized that a deafening roar was shaking the core of our hearts. As it raged, it began to change our lives and hearts much like a natural disaster would redirect the course of a raging river and lead it down another path.

My path would eventually be directed to leave that little university with only a couple semesters left in my college career to start afresh in a Bible college in central Florida. It took about a year’s journey to arrive on that little campus and it set me back several semesters in my course of studies, but in reality, it was the shortest path to my intended future.

Jeromy’s river would weave its way to a summer mission experience that would lead him to a new direction in life. Ken’s path eventually meandered to Nashville to toy with a career in the music industry and then into sales. And Scott’s river would take him and two others, myself included, to a place and experience that would have an unfolding purpose for the rest of our lives.

“I’m going to Alaska and I think you are supposed to go with me.”

“What are you talking about, man?” I said on the outside, while inside I thought he had lost his mind. Never in my life had I felt compelled to go to Alaska.

“I’m supposed to go to Alaska,” he said with the confidence of a crouching lion ready to pounce upon his next meal.

“When do you think you are supposed to go to Alaska?” we asked curiously.

“This summer. Are you going with me?”

It was barely a question. It rang out more like a directive, as if Scott had heard from the Maker that we were to go and he was simply announcing his revelation. And that is how this all began.

It was not just the beginning of a story, but the beginning of dozens: a simple invitation from a boy who had heard the voice of the Maker and who simply responded. As if the officer of the watch barked out orders to the helmsman, “Hard Right Rudder,” and the faithful sailor blindly obliged. That sudden change of course was the shift I needed to open the doorway into the richness of living a life of adventure and passion. As the far-fetched fairy tale became a reality, my eyes were opened to the adventure of life lived radically following the voice of the Maker of all creation. I reluctantly agreed to follow. It felt something like the fishermen must have felt when they were standing by their boats tending to the family business and the Redeemer swaggered over to them and said, “Follow me, I will make you fishers of men.”

I couldn’t resist the persistent voice of both Scott and the Maker. Turning my back on reason and asking “why not,” I began preparing for the first of what would become many trips to a place where the problems and distractions of life cannot follow. Alaska!

Best Laid Plans

The details of that first trip to Alaska would be tested, tried, and tweaked up to the day we climbed into the 1986 Ford Bronco, which ironically carried the license plate number 25ARK02. We engaged the engine and set sail in our four-wheeled rescue boat, as it delivered us from the dangers of the mundane. Our destination was Wasilla, Alaska, about forty miles north of Anchorage. Our journey would take us from church to church to host youth events in Kentucky, Missouri and Colorado. We would cross the U.S. border into Canada from Montana and arrive at our destination six days after our departure.

As Scott shared his story with friends and family, everyone seemed to want to journey with us. A month into the planning process we had twelve college students ready to hop into a van and go. A church in Florence, Alabama, had committed a fifteen-passenger van and it looked like nothing stood in the way of a dozen passionate students taking off on a summer “missions trip.” As these twelve students began to tell their parents the exciting news, the students’ zeal for adventure yielded to the authority of their parents’ fear of danger. They dropped out one by one, most due to parental concern and others from fear of the journey. Looking back today as a parent of four, I would expect nothing less. In the end there were three of us…Scott, Kevin and Keith.

I can only guess how many times I wanted to relent. My timid mind was tucking tail and crying out for mercy. I was not convinced that this trip was possible nor was I sold on the fact that it was wise. With the 20/20 nature of hindsight, it may have, in fact, been neither, and that was the beauty of it; it was a blind leap of faith. Each time one of the phone calls came in from another friend, who could not go for this reason or that, I would waver. Walking a tightrope, each step of the way I had to regain balance and only hope for stability. To be honest, I cannot remember telling my parents about the trip. I can only imagine what they must have said. But, my parents knew that Scott and I had taken these kinds of risks before in our fourteen-year friendship and that once we had made up our minds we were as good as gone. Somehow I was with Scott when the ARK02 set sail on the long journey. I am forever grateful I was; it changed my life forever.

The Three Gypsies

Scott and I were the only two from the original group of four from the college apartment experiment who were able to make the trip. As we moved closer to our departure date we began to feel more and more like gypsies preparing for a journey through an unknown land with only the bare essentials in tow.

Myself? I was a misfit from a small town…or at least that was how I felt. It’s not that I thought I was better than anyone, I just felt like a stranger. Perhaps it had to do with my broken family life at the age of twelve or my insecurity in the things of boyhood, such as sports and girls. No matter the reason, I just felt out of place my whole life. Even in college I didn’t know where or with whom to hang out. I needed an identity. At the age of fifteen I thought I found it in church, but even there I was misunderstood and isolated within two years. This led to social and emotional independence that would be tested time and again throughout my life.

Scott strikes those who know him as a man of conviction and passion. We had been in a close friendship since third grade. As long-term friendships go, we were often the best of buddies and occasionally mere acquaintances, but never either for a long period of time. Our Alaskan adventure changed that. Since our return home in 1996, we have been as close as the closest brothers. He and his wife and children live next door to us even now and we see each other several times a week. We will never know if it was this journey that bonded us so closely, but I suspect it played a huge role in our life-long friendship. Scott has returned many times to Alaska...the place where it all began. He even moved there for a short period early in his marriage. The rigors and cost of life in Alaska was more than they were prepared for, so they soon returned to civilization, but their experience was invaluable.

As we prepared for the trip we picked up a third restless wanderer. Keith was a fellow student at our university and the one person who was able to chase his curiosity all the way to Alaska. We did not know Keith that well. We knew he was quirky. We realized he was out of his comfort zone pursuing risk and adventure. We understood his level of discomfort with the outdoors and his fear of wild animals. What we loved was his heart. None of us are perfect and we all have unhealthy motives in the deep recesses of our hearts, but as far as we could tell, Keith was the real deal. He loved the Maker and he was meant to travel this journey. 

I still don’t know what Keith must have been searching for. Nor do I understand his willingness to step into this place of discomfort. But Keith was ready…sitting on the starting line waiting for the light to turn green with the anticipation of a sprinter competing in his first Olympic event. I am so proud of Keith. I am so proud of anyone who overcomes fear in order to follow the Maker with absolute abandon. We rarely see one another these days, but when we do it is as if we could look across a crowded room, meet eyes and write a novel together without ever speaking a word. There are experiences in life after which you know another in ways that a thousand words cannot communicate.

Most of the events of the rest of my life can be attributed in some way to these three weeks at the age of twenty-two. It was more than a turning point. It was a necessary journey that I was supernaturally compelled to take. The drive itself was not a 9,774-mile transport on wheels, it was a life-long trip in which my destination has not been reached and will not be until the day I lay my head in its final resting place. The view from the window of life gets better by the day. The journey from what was to what will be holds more adventure than a mind can imagine. I look forward to the final mile, but will enjoy the scenery as long as I travel.

Upon our arrival back in north Alabama twelve days and 9,774 miles later, these three men would be more than friends. We would be a band of gypsies who found connectedness in a shared adventure. None of us would ever be the same.

In recent years, I have come to know these types of experiences as liminal space. Liminality is the state between what was and what is to come. It is a place of transition where the old “normal” transitions to a new “normal.” Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner first defined liminal space in relation to ritualistic rites of passage in tribal communities. Liminality is known as the space “betwixt and between.” In this space in the middle, social norms are minimized and people in this state together are on equal ground without regard to social hierarchies or categorizations. On the other side of the liminal experience, those journeying together experience a new level of relationship beyond community. This relationship is referred to as communitas and is only accessible through a liminal experience. The relationship between the three of us can only be explained by the shared journey when life was put on hold in order to experience an adventure through danger and discomfort, along with the joys of laughter and success.

The experiences we had together cannot be described with enough detail to allow people to understand the full impact it had on our lives.  In the following pages, I will offer them from my perspective and hope to give you a taste of the joys we experienced. Then I can only hope that you choose to take your own journey. The destination is irrelevant.  Whether it’s Alaska or just down the road to help clean up after a natural disaster, may you experience the excitement of the journey we felt as we followed our own “what ifs” and “why nots.”

The months following the week in the little apartment and leading up to the departure were filled with planning and dreaming, details and disappointment, but the excitement of the adventure overshadowed it all. I took care of the route and stops while Scott handled the funds and networking. We were full of life and void of doubt. We were bound for Alaska and there was no looking back. All the questions about the future that were staring us in the face, just a few weeks prior, were set aside to make room for the adventure ahead. It would lead to unknown destinations and new relationships that would change us, as we were a part of changing those we encountered. The liminal space would transport us to another side of our experience of life, both personally and as a group, and only the Maker knew what that would look and feel like.

Chapter 2: The Ark of the Pavement 

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” - John Lennon

Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The ARK02 was her name and transportation was her game.

With well over 200,000 miles and a decade of road experience, she was our only hope to Alaska. As several options for transportation fell through the cracks, it dawned upon Scott that the ARK02 would set sail to Wasilla, on that scorching hot day in June 1996. We had no idea what we were about to put her through and how courageous she would face it—it was only the Maker who would empower her to finish the course.

We were three and a half days into our journey with two youth services behind us: the first in a little First Baptist church in a small rural town called Hebron, Kentucky, and the second in a St. Louis, Missouri, inner city mission called Compton Heights. They were two totally different cultures and two vastly different experiences. We left St. Louis late for an overnight drive to Monument, Colorado, with me at the wheel, Scott in the passenger seat and Keith in our makeshift sleeping quarters in the back of the burgundy rescue boat. Our gear and supplies were secured with care on the top of the ARK02 in a spider web of bungees. I was in for a long night as the other two passengers were resting up for the day ahead.

I’ll never forget the loneliness of the straight, flat roads of central Kansas. I am pretty sure I was able to get in several naps at the wheel without even knowing it as the drone of the engine kept me in a half-sleep for most of the night; it was the Maker who kept us between the ditches. I was determined to arrive at our destination in plenty of time to prepare for our largest youth event of the trip the next evening. When necessary, I would stop for gas or a dose of caffeine to get me through the next hour. On one stop, I made a quick call to the girl whose memory and mystery kept my mind active enough to continue the drive—I was already homesick. There’s nothing that will sooth a young man’s longing for home more than thoughts of the girl that almost kept him there. I had been away from home many times before, but not with the prospect of the danger that lie ahead. The fear made me want to return to safety. I almost turned the truck around several times to head for home. The feelings intensified when my “rescuer” could not talk on the phone because she was sleeping.

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