Roots on the Rails Roots on the Rails

Upcoming Trips: Dave Alvin's Downey to Denali 2019

September 8-16, 2019

Anchorage - Talkeetna - Denali National Park - Kantishna - Kenai Fjords - Anchorage 


Thanks so much for your interest in this trip! Response has been robust! This trip is currently full, but we are happy to add you to our waiting list. Life is complicated, and we do typically get people who need to cancel – some fairly soon after enthusiastically plonking down a deposit when they realize they are already scheduled for this time frame, and others because something comes up further down the road.

As openings come up, we’ll be offering them to folks on the wait list in the order they signed up, so “purchase” your waiting list spot (it costs nothing, but ensures we have an accurate record of when you signed up and how we can reach you) through our online store here: Put me on the waiting list!

And we’ll be in touch as soon as openings arise.

Thanks again!

Join Dave, Jimmie Dale, Rick and Christy as we head north to Alaska to commune with grizzlies, glaciers, and every natural wonder in between! This will be Dave's first time to Alaska, so if you've ever been tempted to go (or feel the call to return!) you'll be seeing it alongside someone who has traveled every inch of the lower 48, and still delights in every new discovery.

We've packed highlights from the two separate trips we have offered in the past into one epic journey -- from the funky little town of Talkeetna (inspiration for the TV show Northern Exposure, and home to honorary mayor Denali The Cat), to the six million acres of wild land that comprises Denali National Park and the 92 mile ribbon of gravel road (all but the first few miles are gravel, and forbidden to private automobile) that takes us through high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, alongside North America's tallest peak, 20,320 foot Mt. Denali, to the final milepost, and our home for two nights -  the legendary Kantishna Roadhouse. After a return to Anchorage, we head down the Kenai Peninsula where we'll get up close and personal with glaciers, delight in the bobbing sea otters of Resurrection Bay, and learn about Alaska's vast and diverse marine ecosystems.

We've done our best to cover it all -- mountains and ocean, grizzlies and puffins, city and vast emptiness -- and set it to a soundtrack that is worthy of its majesty.

And trains! Yes, we'll be riding trains! Two of the Alaska Railroad's premier routes: The Denali Star and the Coastal Classic, where we'll have our own deluxe, glass-topped Gold Star rail car with delicious, made-to-order meals on board and a private, open-air viewing platform from which to capture the sights and sounds of this astoundingly beautiful landscape.

The music and the musicians? Only the finest. You'll get to witness the extraordinary musical genius of Dave Alvin; the calm, cosmic and compelling Jimmie Dale Gilmore; Dave's long-time sideman and a killer songwriter in his own right, Rick Shea, whose musical chops are not to be messed with; and the stirring and soulful Christy McWilson. After traveling many miles over the years with all of them, we can confirm that they are as personable, generous, and convivial as traveling companions can get -- we're going to have a great time! Adventures by day, musical brilliance by night -- what could possibly be better?

Our group - numbering no more than fifty hardy souls - will journey together most days by comfortable chartered motorcoach at a reasonable pace, stopping for "critter breaks", with no one day's coach travel longer than 3 hours, with the one exception of the trip out to Kantishna Roadhouse on the lodge buses, which while somewhat lacking in luxury, are piloted by expert wildlife spotters and interpreters who bring a level of incredible expertise and fun to the day's adventure. They stop for frequent leg-stretching and photography breaks, use of facilities at various visitors centers and scenic overlooks -- and of course they jam on the brakes whenever a grizzly comes strolling up alongside the bus or two rutting bull moose are blocking the road (yup, that's happened!). 

This is a great time to visit Alaska! We'll be there in that brief window between when the cruise ships have sailed south, the tourists have mostly vacated, the bugs are gone, and the weather is still reasonable. It will likely be cool by day, chilly by night, and because it is Alaska we will get rained on at some point, but the fall tundra colors will be spectacular!
Our feeling is that, for many travelers, a trip to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not do it right?

This trip is not cheap, but it far exceeds the standard Alaska tour experience. Music aside, most travelers stay at hotels along the highway, and take tours that skim the surfaces of all there is to see and do. We have run five previous trips to Alaska, and have seen foraging grizzlies, enormous moose, eagles, caribou, whales, otters, seals, sea lions -- and if you count the critters at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where we make a stop: baby musk ox, lynx, wolves and many others! We've gone on guided hikes (easy, moderate or strenuous as you wish), marveled at the enormity of Denali itself (some took small-plane rides over Denali’s flank); others went mountain biking, fly fishing or gold panning. In both 2015 and 2017 we were treated to the rare sight of an entirely cloudless Denali - an utterly stunning vision (that's where we snapped the promo photo for this trip). We've held chunks of a recently calved glacier in our hands, smelled a puffin colony up close (not entirely pleasant, but memorable!), been licked by Iditarod sled dogs, and sunk up to our knees in the squishy tundra. Alaska is one of the world's greatest living adventures, and we hope you'll join us!

If you wish to stay an additional night or two in Anchorage and continue your Alaskan adventure on your own, we are happy to book additional nights for you at our group rate, just advise of your needs upon making a reservation. 


DAVE ALVIN - "There are two types of folk music: quiet folk music and loud folk music. I play both," says Dave Alvin. One of the great writers and performers in American music, Dave Alvin draws from blues, country and folk traditions to make music uniquely his own. First emerging in the LA roots/punk scene as a member of The Blasters, The Flesh Eaters, and later X, Alvin has gone on to play with a veritable who's who of rock and folk, and, more recently, to forge a mighty solo career. This is his eleventh  Roots on the Rails trip. 

JIMMIE DALE GILMORE - Jimmie has been writing and playing songs for over 50 years, blending elements of folk, country, blues, and bluegrass and defying categorization. He is a three-time Grammy nominee and was named Country Artist of the Year by Rolling Stone Magazine. Along with Joe Ely and Butch Hancock, Gilmore’s legendary band, The Flatlanders, has been credited as fathers of the Alt-country movement. In 2018, Jimmie and Dave released their collaborative album, "Downey to Lubbock" and toured the nation together -- and they're showing no signs of letting up! This will be Jimmie’s tenth Roots on the Rails trip. We like him a lot.

JON LANGFORD -  Our favorite Welshman (take that Tom Jones!) Jon is a founder member of the Mekons And Waco Brothers, and has been an originator/instigator for a fascinating collection of  diverse musical projects including The Wee Hairy Beasties, Jon Langford's Four Lost Soul, Skull Orchard and too many others to list here. He juxtaposes his punk roots with folk music from around the globe with seemingly limitless joy and enthusiasm. Jon is also an accomplished and in-demand visual artist who has lived and painted in Chicago for the last 25 years. 

RICK SHEA - "When I was younger Merle Haggard cast a long shadow, but since then Dave Alvin, Jim Ringer and a lot of other music has found its way in," says Rick Shea. Raised in San Bernadino, California, Shea's brand of storytelling cuts to the quick, and his extraordinary guitar work raises the bar even higher. He has toured as a member of Dave Alvin's Guilty Men and has become one of Roots on the Rails' most requested performers. Rick hosts the Open Mic sessions with grace, good humor, and top-notch honky-tonk chops.

CHRISTY McWILSON - Christy first made a name for herself in late-century Seattle bands the Dynette Set and the Picketts. In 2000 Dave Alvin approached her with an offer to produce her first solo album, made up of her originals and a heartfelt, lovely cover of Brian Wilson's "Til I Die." The album, The Lucky One, was recorded with a core band that included Alvin, Peter Buck, and Rick Shea on guitars; Bob Glaub and Walter Singleman on bass; and Don Heffington on drums. Two years later, she called on many of the same musicians to help her put together her second solo album, Bed of Roses. 


Sunday, 8 September: Afternoon check-in to the Sheraton Anchorage. Pick up your trip materials and meet your fellow travelers!

Monday, 9 September: We board our chartered motorcoach for the two and a half hour trip to Talkeetna. We pass through Wasilla enroute, though, to date, no Palins have been sighted. Talkeetna was the inspiration for the television show “Northern Exposure.” There will be time to explore the town,  even book a private fly fishing lesson if you wish, get settled into our excellent hotel, the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, go for a hike and have dinner. There will either be a concert in town (in an airplane hangar!) or a private show in front of the fireplace at the hotel.

Tuesday, 10 September: We depart Talkeetna in the morning and travel a little over three hours up the stunningly scenic George Parks Highway to the entrance of Denali Park. Here we transfer to the bus that will carry us 92 miles to the end of the road. During our travel to and from the Kantishna Roadhouse we will have excellent opportunities to see wildlife in their natural habitat. The height of the bus and its large sliding windows provide the perfect viewing platform as we journey through the Park (we cribbed this language from the Roadhouse. Don’t be fooled - it’s a glorified school bus, but it gets us up close to the critters, so we love it!). The Driver/Guides are expert wildlife spotters and will stop the bus whenever an animal or view of Mt. Denali comes into range. Binoculars and cameras will be put to great use as we enjoy the amazing landscapes and animals. Arrival at the Roadhouse will be in time for dinner (included). There is a cozy pub just steps away from the dining room. 

Wednesday, 11 September: This is a full day to settle into the rhythm of the Roadhouse. No cell phone, no internet, no road beyond the Roadhouse - beyond is simply wilderness. And bears. The day is free to enjoy as you wish. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided. Guided hikes leave the Roadhouse each morning – choose a two-hour walk or take a bag lunch and hike for up to six hours. Whether a beginner, intermediate or advanced trekker, the Park is yours to explore on foot and learn about the wildlife and flora of the Kantishna Hills from one of the experienced Naturalist Guides. Mountain bikes and helmets are available for those wishing to explore the old mining roads in the area. Try catch-and-release fly fishing for Arctic Grayling along Moose Creek (hip boots and both fly and spinning rods are available for guest use). Take in the Alaskan sled-dog team presentation (and meet the resident dogs of the Kantishna kennel!), book a massage, or arrange for a  flightseeing tour to see Mt Denali and her many glaciers from the air. The long day allows one to enjoy activities while still leaving plenty of time to relax and just soak up the area's beauty and tranquility. If Mount Denali is "out" the guides will hustle everybody into vans and head for Wonder Lake where you can get that perfect photo of the mountain reflected in the perfect stillness of the water. If you want to plan your own excursion, ask a guide for maps and recommendations – they are always happy to assist. After dinner, we push the dining room tables back, circle up the chairs and settle in for a night of unplugged acoustic music in a setting that is pure magic. This is a concert experience like no other; imagine the hush; the music inside - outside the immensity of the Alaskan wilderness at night.

Thursday, 12 September: We pack up early and head back out to the park entrance, the punishment of the early wake-up call mitigated by the chance to see the famed alpenglow on the mountains and the critters out foraging for their breakfasts before the park buses start rolling. We set a brisker pace this time, stopping only for bathroom breaks and if the road is blocked by bears. We arrive back at the park entrance in time to board the Alaska Railroad's Denali Star for the return trip to Anchorage. Moose, bear, abundant waterfowl and even wolves are often spotted from our open-air observation deck. We'll enjoy a full lunch and dinner on board, and arrive back in Anchorage at 8:00 pm, where we head to our hotel for the night.

Friday, 13 September: A full day to explore some of Anchorage's many attractions. It's an easily walkable city with wonderful museums, restaurants, and brewpubs. Visit the Alaskan Native Heritage Center or rent a bike and ride the 11-mile coastal trail -- the day is yours to fill as you see fit. We'll have a concert downtown to cap off the evening.

Saturday, 14 September: We board our chartered motorcoach for the stunning trip down the Kenai Peninsula to Seward - the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park.  We head south, skirting the Turnagain Arm where we've often seen beluga whales and harbor seals, and if our timing is right we can watch surfers ride the legendary bore tide.  We stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a wonderful sanctuary, rehabilitation, and research facility where we can see any of the critters that may have been sleeping while we were in Denali -- moose, wood bison, caribou, grizzly bears  In Seward, we'll have a chance to explore this bustling port town, visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, hike right up to the toe of Exit Glacier, and spend another evening gathered for an intimate concert with Dave and friends. We'll overnight in Seward at a fine local hotel.

Sunday, 15 September: Today, we conquer the ocean! In the morning we board an 82-foot enclosed catamaran and head out into Resurrection Bay and the spectacular glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park. With walk-around viewing decks, spacious heated cabins, large windows, comfortable indoor seating for all guests and a snack bar (that serves beer and wine!) it's a comfortable day out on the water, getting into the nooks and crannies of this great natural resource.  The enormity of the calving glaciers must be witnessed to be comprehended. Truly, this has been one of the most spectacular days of scenery-viewing ever on one of our journeys. Sea lions, sea otters, whales (lucky passengers at the front of the boat have witnessed a full breach) are seen in abundance.

Upon our late-afternoon arrival back in Seward, we board another of the Alaska Railroad's premier trains, the Coastal Classic, for the return trip to Anchorage. Moose, bear, salmon, many types of waterfowl and even wolves are often spotted from the open-air observation deck. We'll enjoy a full dinner on board, pass spectacular Turnagain Arm as the sun sets and arrive back in Anchorage at 10:15 pm, where we head to our hotel for the night.

Monday, 16 September: Hotel checkout (additional nights at our group rate are available with advance notice).

As with any dynamic event this far out, details may change. Should there be a substantial alteration to the itinerary after sign-up, you will have a week-long window of notification in which you may cancel with no penalty.

Sign up today by e-mailing Sarah at, or by calling 866-484-3669 (toll-free in the US & Canada). Or purchase your spot using the links below to our online store.


$4,889.00 per person for eight nights hotel (shared room), public and private concerts as listed, chartered motorcoach, Denali Park tour, Kantishna Roadhouse activities (narrated 92-mile trip from park entrance to Roadhouse, all meals and programs at Roadhouse), Denali Star first-class "Gold Star" train service and dinner en route, admission to Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Kenai Fjords tour and Coastal Classic first-class "Gold Star train service and dinner returning to Anchorage.

Solo Hotel Supplement: $750 per person for six nights of solo occupancy of your hotel accommodations -- 4 nights in Anchorage, one night in Talkeetna, one night in Seward. Due to capacity limitations out at the Kantishna Roadhouse, all room assignments are double occupancy, but the rooms are spacious, comfortable, and include private bath.

Airfare to/from Alaska, gratuities and other transfers not included.


We offer a few payment options for cost savings and convenience.
1.) Pay in one lump sum through our online store and receive a 2% per person discount off the regular price of $4889: THIS OPTION IS CURRENTLY SOLD OUT, BUT GET ON THE WAITING LIST HERE!
2.) If you've already paid your $300 per person deposit through our online store to reserve your spot, then within 30 days:
Solo travelers will be paired with another same-gender traveler for double occupancy of hotel rooms, unless the six-night solo occupancy add-on is purchased.
Solo Hotel Supplement: $750 per person for six nights of solo occupancy of your hotel accommodation

Credit cards (Visa, MC, Amex, Discover) and checks accepted.  Payment plans at no additional charge are happily accommodated. Payment plan must be agreed upon and set up within 30 days of sign-up. Deposits, whether paid separately or as part of a full payment up front, are non-refundable, though they can be applied to a future trip with us.  Liability release signature required.

Cancellation policy: Deposits, whether paid separately or as part of a full payment up front, are non-refundable, though they can be applied to a future trip with us. Outside of deposit and credit card fees, a full refund will be given up until 90 days prior to the start of the trip. 50% refund 60-90 days. No refund less than 60 days prior to the start of the trip. Reservations are fully transferable to another person.


We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance for your trip. By purchasing through this link to Squaremouth (an aggregator where various insurance company policies can be compared at no additional cost to you), we receive a small commission (about five percent). This helps us keep our trips as affordable as possible. On virtually every trip, we have someone who needs to cancel at the last minute due to injury or illness, family emergency, or any number of unexpected circumstances. Those who had purchased the trip insurance were disappointed to be missing the trip, but very relieved that they were not losing all the funds they had paid us, airline tickets, hotel accommodations, and other expenses. Those who did not purchase the trip insurance were really, really sad to lose a train trip and a bunch of money too. We'd hate to see you be one of those people, which is why we stress the importance of trip insurance. Really, truly, we think it is worth it.


The payment of a deposit or any part or full payment for a reservation shall constitute consent to all the provisions contained herein. Flying Under Radar, LLC shall not be held responsible for property loss or damage and/or any damages resulting from illness, personal injuries or death which may be sustained by reason of, or while engaged on, any trip or tour whether due to the ownership, maintenance, use, operation or control of any vehicle, hotel, common carrier or any other conveyance used in carrying out these tours. We can assume no liability due to any cause whatsoever whether caused by failure or delay or other irregularity, acts or omissions occurring during a tour under which the means of transportation or other service thereby is offered or supplied by owners, operators or public carriers for whom Flying Under Radar, LLC acts only as agent. Flying Under Radar, LLC reserves the right (at its discretion) to alter or omit any part of the itinerary, or change any reservation, feature and/or means of conveyance without notice or for any reason whatsoever and without allowance or refund and with extra costs, if any, resulting therefrom paid by the passengers. Although all artists are contracted to appear, lineup is potentially subject to change due to illness or force majeure. We reserve the right to cancel any tour prior to departure, in which case payment will be refunded without further obligation on our part. Flying Under Radar, LLC shall not be responsible for any injury to person (whether or not resulting in death) or damage to property.

Flying Under Radar, LLC strongly urges individual passengers to obtain appropriate insurance coverage. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely. The transportation companies concerned are not to be held responsible for any act, omission or event during the time passengers are not aboard their carriers or conveyances. The passenger contract in use by the carriers concerned (when issued) shall constitute the sole contract between the transportation companies and the purchaser of these tours and/or passage. By accepting the ticket the passenger also agrees to its terms and conditions. By forwarding of deposit, the passenger certifies that he/she does not have any mental, physical or other condition or disability that would create a hazard for him/herself or other passengers. Flying Under Radar, LLC reserves the right to cancel or withdraw any person as a member of the tour at any time. Flying Under Radar, LLC and Roots on the Rails management reserve the right to refuse service to anyone whom it considers incompatible with the best interests of its services or its guests.