There we sat, snarled in traffic in downtown Philadelphia, with the AC pumping through the rental car because the temperature outside was 97 degrees. That didn't even factor in the humidity, which you could cut with a rusty steak knife.

"Kinda makes you appreciate home a little more, huh?" I asked my wife.

Ten days later, we landed in Anchorage after a whirlwind of a vacation visiting relatives, watching the Phillies and munching on cheesesteaks. The one-hour drive home served as a much-needed welcoming committee, with a new reminder of why we choose to Alaska around every bend in the road.

There was Pioneer Peak and the Chugach Mountains staring at us in the face, after nearly two weeks of staring at flat ground. Vibrant fireweed lined the road, a stark contrast to the miles upon miles of corn fields we saw back East. The rivers wound under the bridges, and if they could talk, they would have told me to get my raft ready for another weekend chasing salmon and camping.

Alaskans are a funny bunch - we love to get out of the state and visit other places, but we always like coming home. There's just something about this place that draws us back - big, wide-open spaces, towering mountain peaks, raging rivers, majestic hiking trails.

We had a great time on our East Coast vacation, but I never really felt "awed" by what I was seeing. But every time I show off Alaska to a new visitor, I see that "awe" in their expressions and actions, whether they are seeing Denali for the first time from a flightseeing trip in Talkeetna or just taking a drive up the Glenn Highway.

When the awe become the expected, maybe you know you're finally home.