Member of the Month

Member of the Month: Introducing Dee (and her 7-hour trek!)

Dee Branshaw/photo provided by Dee

When your weekly TOPS meeting rolls around, do you find yourself eagerly awaiting the chance to check back in – with your friends, your body and your support system?

(We sure hope so!)

If you’re ever on edge about attending – maybe you’re nervous you gained a few pounds, or you were invited out to dinner instead, or you’re simply lacking motivation on this particular day – that’s probably standard. We all seem to have those weeks, when none of our commitments sound just right, or we’d rather laze on the couch.

Next time you experience one of those days, I want you to think about Dee Branshaw, from TOPS AK 0048. Dee our Member of the Month for April, and she caught my eye on Discord, our new chatroom-style environment online, where she was recently explaining to fellow TOPS members that she commutes seven hours one way to attend her chapter meetings.

Yes, you read that correctly. Seven hours by boat!

If you’re unfamiliar with what life is like in rural Alaska, you’re not alone. I had no idea.

Dee told me all about the Alaska Marine Highway System, which is a ferry service operated by the state. Then, she enters the longest tunnel in North America to get through a mountain – only to drive an hour to Anchorage.

“(This is) life on the last frontier!” Dee said in a Discord chat.

This is just one of the reasons why Discord is so cool. I didn’t have to schedule a call with Dee, or work out the time difference; I was just clicking around through all TOPS’ little “rooms” – we have areas where people are discussing workout ideas, recipes, or just idea-sharing and networking amongst themselves – and Dee was explaining what her schedule looked like on meeting days.

Dee wakes up at 3 a.m., as ferry check-in takes place at 4 a.m. The boat departs at 5 a.m.

“All passengers sleep on the floor of the ferry, as there are no staterooms,” Dee said. “It’s how the peasants travel!” she typed with a laughing emoji.

And then there’s that tunnel – the Whittier, Alaska train tunnel.

“We drive on the tracks,” Dee said. “(It’s) one-way traffic for cars on the half-hour. Northbound is on the hour, southbound is on the half-hour. And then it’s closed for an hour when a train goes through, to let it pass and to get out all the train exhaust. It’s like traveling back in time to WWII when it was built.”

Fascinating, isn’t it? Dee shared a link of the ship, and said the locals call the ferries “blue canoes.”

“Yes, they are old and slow!” Dee said. They do carry vehicles though, which is important – 35 of them, Dee said.

She does the trek monthly, for essentials, stocking up on food, freight parts (her family owns a business where these are needed), appointments such as the doctor and dentist, and of course, TOPS.

“I look forward most to my TOPS meeting,” Dee said.

When I asked Dee about whether she’d like to join her group, perhaps on Zoom, on the days when she’s not able to make the trip, she said she’s OK with her current setup. She loves the camaraderie and the people she’s met through TOPS.

Dee and her group/photo provided by Dee

“I’ll just keep gleaning all I can from the TOPS website and will (poke around) on Discord,” Dee said. 

I thanked Dee for sharing, and she thanked ME for “the interest in our ‘Wild Alaska.’”

Like I said … keep Dee in mind, next time you’re tempted to skip a TOPS meeting. If she can make it – so can you!

Read more:

Member of the Month: Meet Lois | Member of the Month: Meet Serena | Members of the Month: Meet Michelle and Michael | Members of the Month: Meet the women of VC 0003

Anyone can be a TOPS cheerleader! Meet Dawn | Members of the Month: It’s all in the family in Wright City, Missouri | Member of the Month: Meet Dorothy | Member of the Month: Meet Nicole

Member of the Month: Meet Doris | Nominate a deserving person to be our next Member of the Month

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10 thoughts on “Member of the Month: Introducing Dee (and her 7-hour trek!)

  1. why discord ?
    I have no more space on my phone for one more app ..
    I have zoom , Facebook messenger, as meeting venue
    other apps are for medical , gym , bank , stuff I have to have .I would love to be part of the t.o.p.s discord ..I am sure there are others like me ,that can’t do one more app

    1. Hi Cora, Discord has some really cool capabilities that some of the other social channels do not. Your call! -Michelle

  2. I LOVE the determination! My first TOPS chapter was in Alaska. Thankfully, it was on base at Elmendorf AFB. Get story. When I don’t WANT to attend, I will remember Dee’s story and remind myself I am 10 minutes away NOT 7 hours.

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