ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Anchorage-based businessman plans to begin bus service from Alaska to Minnesota next month.
Alaska Direct Busline already offers year-round passenger bus service between Anchorage and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Owner Wayne Lofgren plans to extend the run to Minnesota in mid-May.
Lofgren, 72, said he's driven the Alaska-Yukon routes so many times he knows what it takes to make a service there work.
He said he's willing to take on hassles other companies will not, such as breakdowns in a remote area, or dealing with Canadian operating regulations.
Alaska Direct has received permits to pick up and drop off passengers in Canada, Lofgren said. American charter trips must take their load of passengers straight through.
Greyhound Canada has been plying the Yukon for 65 years, its staff said, but Whitehorse is the end of its line. Passengers who want to continue are referred to Alaska Direct.
Lofgren believes there's a market for more than connections. He is working with Alabama-based LRM Tours, which saw business on the East Coast sour after Sept. 11.
Owners Leroy and Roberta Moore received a tip that that there might be a company interested in running between Alaska and Canada and found Lofgren.
''We don't know what we're getting ourselves into,'' Roberta Moore said, laughing. ''It's something we'll have to try out.''
Lofgren said he had been unwilling to expand because some passengers, especially international travelers, objected to the age of his vehicles. His four buses range from 3 to 10 years old. LRM has 11 buses built in 2000 and 2001.
Lofgren has made arrangements to begin the service at the Mall of America. The weekly summer service will have two formats, Lofgren said, either a three-day trip or a leisurely 10-day journey covering 300 miles a day. In the winter, the three-day trip will be the only option.
Oil workers, college students coming for fun or a summer job, military personnel and elderly vacationers are all potential customers, he said.
''We just got a call yesterday. A whole load of Elderhostel folks want to come up with us,'' Lofgren said.
A one-way ticket for the roughly 3,500-mile trip will be $350 and does not include meals and lodging.
Willie Pass said he's been driving for Alaska Direct for about eight years. The attractions include mountains, glaciers, sunsets, plus occasionally caribou, bear, bison and sheep.
''It's a memorable trip,'' Pass said.
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