Lynn Cantwell, author of The Pipe Woman Chronicles, was kind enough to stop by the blog today on her whirlwind book tour.
The Quest for Cantwell...
Whatever joke you'd like to make about my last name, trust me – it's already been done: “Can't do well,” “Can't do what well?” and the ever-popular “Campbell's Beans.” Never mind that Campbell is a Scots name, while Cantwell is Irish. Well, more precisely, Norman. Came to Ireland with Strongbow, we did, and became one of those families who were more Irish than the Irish themselves – until Oliver Cromwell confiscated our castles for being cheeky and sent us packing for America.
Anyway, there aren’t a whole lot of Americans named Cantwell, so I typically have to spell my name carefully for people, lest they make me a Kantwell or a Cantrell, or, yes, a Campbell. Over the years, I've found it refreshing to visit places where I give someone my name and they just write it down without my having to help them. I didn't have a lick of trouble in London, for example. And if I ever get to Ireland, I expect it will be the same there.
So when I began to plan my recent vacation in Alaska, I just knew I would have to stop in Cantwell. Yes, there's a town called Cantwell, Alaska. It's on the Parks Highway, about thirty miles south of Denali National Park. I've known of its existence for years. When I was a kid, my father would get out the atlas and start planning our annual summer vacation (which almost always consisted of driving for days to some faraway place, stopping there for a few hours, and driving home) and he would sometimes look at the map of Alaska and dream, I suppose, about going there someday. And while he had the map out, he would always remind us of the existence of Cantwell, Alaska.
Driving to Alaska was pretty much out of the question, even in those days of cheap gas, and my parents would never have considered getting on an airplane. So Dad never got to Cantwell.
I, however, have no aversion to flying – well, apart from takeoffs and landings. And turbulence. I don't have much use for turbulence. But other than that, I'm good with getting on a plane. And besides, I had been to forty-nine of the fifty U.S. states, and I needed to complete the set. So I was Alaska bound – and as I drew up my itinerary, I stuck in a line between Anchorage and Denali: “Photo op in Cantwell!”
I couldn't have missed it if I'd tried. There's only one highway between Anchorage and Denali, and Cantwell is on it. No, my major concern was whether I could get photographic proof of my stop. It's just a little town, after all. Would there be a “Welcome to Cantwell” sign? Maybe a post office?
I needn't have worried – Cantwell, Alaska, has both, and they’re both right on the Parks Highway. My big photo op took all of two minutes to complete. After the decades of buildup, it seemed a little anti-climatic.
But I can't tell you how relieved I was when I checked into my hotel (actually, a very nice hostel) that night, and didn't have to spell my last name for the desk clerk. And on my way back to Anchorage later in the week, I stopped again in Cantwell to gas up, and stuck a dollar in the kitty for the Cantwell High School student activities fund. I told the attendant why I was doing it, and he laughed.
Now that I’ve ticked Alaska off my bucket list, I suppose I should be on the lookout for another travel challenge. I hear there's a town named Cantwell in Missouri. Hmm....
To find Lynne Cantwell, visit her blog and her Amazon book page.
Thanks to Lynne for stopping by! Good luck with the tour.
Until the next time...I'll be booking my next guest.