In my Hertz-provided Taurus, I drove aimlessly from Anchorage along the Seward Highway to take whichever turn, without consulting a map (this was early 2000s, pre-ubiquitous-GPS). On an empty, unpopulated stretch of road (Portage Glacier Highway), there was suddenly, rising out of absolute nothing — a toll booth. In middle-of-nowhere Alaska. And a person in the toll booth. Smiling at me through the Plexiglas.

I pulled up to the booth and the attendant said “fifteen.” I dutifully gave her fifteen bucks. She said something like “ha ha, most people think it’s fifteen cents.” (nb: Google says the toll is $12, but I remember it being $15; maybe it’s been reduced since then)

Drove up the road and there was a tunnel. One vehicle at a time. Through a mountain. No stopping. And at the other end, a town emerged, called Whittier. I drove around Whittier, and did the go-into-a-diner-and-get-weird-looks thing (it was a diner near the water, I guess for fishermen), then the go-into-a-grocery-store-and-get-weird-looks thing. Drove around and around, imagined living there, went on a little walk to nowhere.

Drove by the Begich Towers but didn’t realize I could/should walk in and wander around.

AM radio did actually have a station. And I remember a sign in town advising to use a CB channel for something or other. CB! I don’t remember whether my phone had reception.

I left town, got back to Anchorage, and chalked that up as a great aimless trip. Only when I went online I figured out where I’d been.

Here’s Gizmodo on Whittier:

I’ve taken a lot of other drives-to-nowhere within the US, and have ridden in a lot of drives-to-weird-places outside the US, but this one stands out because I can actually identify the place. My other stories would just sound like “there was this really weird small town.”