Monday, September 27, 2010

Wending Our Way to Whittier

Our train narrator, Ingrid, tossed out all sorts of little factoids during the several hour long ride to meet our cruise ship in Whittier but you could tell that folks were getting a little tired of riding as we neared our destination. After all, we had ridden a large bus for two nine plus hour days, then ridden a school bus for 6 plus hours into Denali National Park and now we had spent nine hours on the train. Granted, we saw Beluga Whales in Turnagain Arm (sorry the photo isn't so good but the white knobby-headed Belugas don't breach like the big whales but swim and hunt more like dolphins, only surfacing briefly as they chased the salmon up the inlet. The Beluga is that white spot in the lower left hand corner.
We saw spruce trees that had been killed by the tsunami that was caused by the earthquake on 1964. Being immersed in sea salt water killed them.Then came the one mile long tunnel through Begich Peak and the much longer, much darker two and a half mile long Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. One traffic lane wide, the tunnel is shared by automotive and train traffic alike which creates some long traffic jams when a train comes through.
Finally we arrived in Whittier. And there was our ship, the Island Princess. It took us a long time to finally board as we had to go through security to get on the ship and then receive our ID/room cards and be processed but finally we were onboard the ship. After the lifeboat drill had been suffered through, we were free to explore the ship. But that's tomorrow's post.

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Have I mentioned our rig was in for repairs for eleven days? While we had to stay in a motel? And that we were glad to be on the road because we were headed to New York to see the grands? Yeah. We made it here okay, had our first visit with the kids, had fun. Yesterday when I got up the temperatures had dropped quit a bit, so I turned on the furnace. Or tried to turn on the furnace. The blower came on, there was a click of the igniter but there was no ignition of propane. And therefore there was no heat. ARRRGGGHHHH. And the only mobile factory authorized service repairman of course was not going to answer his phone on a Sunday. Fortunately we have a space heater (we also have a heat pump but it vibrates the rig so much and is so loud that we don't use it. Dometic says it's not a problem. Yeah.)

Tonight the repairman made it out. In the rain. And promptly blew a fuse in the furnace. But after a trip back to his shop he found some spare pieces parts that fit our model and when he left we had heat.

So I'm laughing. Really. Because this theater has become absurd. And what else can you do at this point?

We were going to play golf with our son and daughter-in-law tomorrow but the weather gods insist on doing their part and thunderstorms are in the forecast. So I'll spend tomorrow morning fighting with our rig's manufacturer in an attempt to be compensated for our expenses for the repair. But I'll do it with this song in my head and so I think I can pull it off without going all lunatic on them.

Any bets on what's going to break next?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Wanna

Denny and I finally got to hitch up to The Beast Friday afternoon at 4PM and pulled out of Elkhart shortly thereafter. We made it to Milan, Ohio before calling it quits for the day because we had spent most of it standing around waiting for the repairs to the rig to finally be finished. A very late meal of our last can of Skyline chili, a quick walk for Patches and we were ready for bed.

The next morning I distracted Patches with another walk (she knows the signs of us preparing to de-camp) and was stopped by a neighbor who complimented Patches. He had several questions about our rig and when I mentioned that we were fulltimers he said, "I wanna do that someday". People, the man had to be 75 years old. If you aren't already on the road full time by the age of 75, what on earth makes you think you will do it now?

Believe me, after twelve years on the road we've heard every reason why a person can't yet sell their house and hit the road. And every one of them is good. But if you really wanna, you will. I have to admit when I hear "I wanna" the voice in my head is saying "yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah." And my smile when I look and nod my head at their reasons probably has a bit of pity in it. Because someday they'll be thinking "coulda, woulda, shoulda."

The reason this bile of mine comes up? Denny's favorite cousin, Wanda, died Friday morning. Cancer killed her. Wanda lived life large. She was well educated, well traveled and well loved. I don't think there were any "I wannas" in her life. And that's the way life should be.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Anachronism in Indiana

Just prior to leaving for the golf course this morning I decided to pack some of our clothes in preparation for moving back into The Beast (who is certainly living up to his name.) As I bent over to open the dresser drawer--GASP! A stabbing pain in my hip told me something just moved in a way that it shouldn't have. It took me quite a while to be able to straighten up and then move, so Denny and I knew that golf was no longer on our agenda this morning.

I called the golf course to cancel our tee time and spoke to the same nice young man that had made our tee time yesterday. When I mentioned that I pulled something in my back, he immediately gave me the name of his cousin who is a chiropractor. I thought I'd tough it out but I couldn't get comfortable, so Denny made an appointment for me and off we went to run a couple of things to the rig and go get fixed.

The town where the chiropractor is located is a bit old and tired, as is the building where he is located. I began to have my doubts about what kind of treatment I would receive. Sitting in his waiting room we saw the sign that stated there was no billing, no accounting, cash only. Fortunately we had enough cash but as the doctor started typing up the paperwork (because there's always paperwork) I realized he was typing on an IBM Selectric typewriter. Yep, carbonized forms, electric typewriter, not a computer to be found. This man is only 64 years old but his furniture is at least as old as that IBM as is his chiropractic equipment. It was like stepping back into the late 60s or early 70s.

However, his concern was genuine, his pre-treatment workup was meticulous and the actual adjustment was careful, cautious, gentle and in the end very effective. I could feel the release when he popped my spine into place and the pain was less immediately. The man was better than our hometown chiropractor, I have to say. And during all this we were talking about his hobby or second occupation as a Revolutionary War reenactor where he plays a flag bearer and doctor. I could have sat there and talked to him for hours.

Small town Americana--it's why we travel.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Train to Whittier, Alaska

Why is it when you have to set your alarm for an event you then wake up every half hour until it is actually time to get up? And then you fall back to sleep?

The morning we were to board the train for Whittier from Denali we had to have our luggage set outside our hotel room door by 6:30AM. And that's when I found myself awakening at 6:03AM. Arrrggghhh! So we rushed to get ready and stuff everything in our bags to toss them outside before scrambling over to the main hotel building for a cup of coffee and a muffin. After standing in a long, long line and scarfing down the muffins Denny and I hurried upstairs to the lobby where I happened to glance at the large monitors which held the various tour scheduled. Which is when I discovered that the bus to the train was delayed at hour. Crap! So we schmoozed with various members of the Prudhoe group, wandered around and called friends and family members while we had a cell phone signal. Soon enough we were loaded onto buses and on our way to the train just ten minutes away.The train cars had glass roofs which allowed for great viewing of the scenery as the train traveled at anywhere from 20 to 40 mph along the tracks. Our group was fortunate to have been placed in the first car as we all had roomy seats facing forward instead of having to sit at tables as in the remaining four cars of the train.

Almost all of the intrepid Prudhoe Bay group were together in our train car. Yay!
It was tough having to look at scenery like this all day. What you are seeing is Tanarama (sp) Mountain, a 5000 foot peak. We would be on the train for about nine and a half hours, but we had the freedom to stand outside on the platform between rail cars, wander from car to car or go downstairs to the dining area. Plus there was a bartender on duty on each car and several of us discovered the deliciousness of a Moose Kiss (and no, Vicki, I'm keeping the ingredients secret for our Myrtle Beach get-together!)Our tour guide, Ingrid, provided commentary throughout our trip to Whittier. We saw a lime production factory (lime is a necessary component of the pit toilets/outhouses in Alaska), alluvial fans which are gravel washes from glaciers on the sides of mountains, a rock formation named Redington Rock because it looks like Joe Redington Sr with one of his mushing teams (my photo was too blurry to post), state provided line cabins that are kept well stocked for times when brush pilots are downed due to bad weather, a huge billboard that Ingrid told us was for drive in movies but was actually a huge message board for park rangers. We saw huge tracks of ferns, river after river, rv campgrounds, telegraph poles from earlier times being left to rot and return to nature. We learned that the Alaskan mountain range is the youngest in Alaska, that V-shaped valleys in the mountains were formed by river erosion while U-shaped valleys were formed by glaciers pushing through and that the highest point of the railroad tracks was at 2363 feet of elevation. The cabin that Sean Penn lived in while directing the movie "Into the Wild" was pointed out to us as was the tiny town of Curry, Alaska which once had a hotel with a swimming pool and a 3 hole golf course as it was a one-night stop for people traveling between Anchorage to Denali. The train passed over Hurricane Gulch on a 918 foot long trestle that rose 294 feet over the valley floor.
We passed through Poke and Plumb, Alaska--poke your head out and you're plumb out of town in Willow, Alaska. We learned that Iditarod racer Martin Boozer lived in Miller's Reach and when the town caught fire Martin broke down the doors to the locked up firehouse to get the equipment necessary to put out the fire. And that the city council later attempted to fine Martin for the damage to the fire house doors. It seems that government is the same everywhere.

We learned that Wasilla is the home of the Iditarod, a 1,000 mile long dog sled race which was originally a desperate run to bring medicine to Nome during a diphtheria epidemic. The race is 1,049 miles long on alternate years to honor Alaska becoming our 49th state of the union.While passing through Anchorage it was pointed out to us that some of the area had sunk 40 feet after the great earthquake.And of course, on our final chance of five possible locations on our train trip, we finally saw Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What a Crappy Way to Start the Week

Last night while walking Patches around the perimeter of the motel (she's on a leash) a feral cat, possibly the mother of the young kitten we saw in the parking lot, attacked Patches. I was able, after what seemed like minutes, to chase away the cat and drag Patches up to the room. There was no way I was going to try to pick her up--been there, done that, ended up in the emergency room. An hour later she was limping around with her left rear leg held up, so today we'll find a vet to check for deep wounds and infection. We've also had experience with that with another cat and abscesses aren't pretty. Of course, Patches absolutely abhors vets so this is probably going to be ugly today.

Add to that the fact that someone in the room beside us, above us or below us thought it was cute to leave their alarm clock set for 5AM and then check out--well, let's just say this isn't the most auspicious beginning to a new week.

So much for golf and sightseeing. Now I'm afraid to call the RV service tech to check on the progress of our rig--bad things come in threes, right? Gah.
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