Where does an Irishman go after reading The Call of the Wild? To the Arctic Circle, of course.
In 2003, Keenan (An Evil Cradling, 1993) traveled to Alaska armed with a Jack London epigraph (“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise”) and a head full of dreams. He planned to make a five-month journey with his wife and two sons; in Fairbanks, the family picked up an RV, which the author grandly named the Pequod, while his young son prosaically dubbed it “the car-house.” Keenan learned to manage a dog team—“Every time I took a spill my team barked and yelped as if they were a team of hyenas and my comic performance was to their liking”—and during a practice sleigh run was beguiled by the colors of an aurora borealis. But when the Pequod headed south toward the far reaches of Denali National Park, the land and its inhabitants got stranger. White proprietors refused to sell gas to the Keenans, and evangelical injunctions were plastered everywhere. After reaching Valdez, the author was warned about various religious and right-wing cults populating the area. Returning to Fairbanks, Keenan subsequently traveled the Alaskan Highway with a long-distance trucker and flew to attend a traditional Gwich’in gathering in Arctic Village, where he inadvertently set up camp in a graveyard. He eventually decided to abandon his pursuit of London’s Yukon footsteps, and the family lingered in Sitka, where “the summer was ending with glorious haste, and under the green canopy of the evergreen forest autumn colors were setting the hillsides ablaze.”
Keenan’s self-deprecating humor and eagerness to learn set this apart from many travelogues.