Friday, August 06, 2010

Our exit from Alaska was a whirlwind. We squeezed a visit to the University of Alaska - Fairbanks' Museum of the North the day after we got into town, then hauled everything into a cab to the airport and flew our separate ways - Dan to New Orleans, the little guy and me to Silicon Valley to be with my in-laws for a couple of weeks.

What follows is my last journal entry, written in No-Cal after the little guy woke me up impossibly early, delighting in playing loudly with toys he hadn't seen in many months.

While we were in Alaska, the first thing residents wanted to ask us about were the drive-thru daiquiri places. Our driver to Anchorage regaled us with her tale of her and her husband's quest to get one that was thwarted the first time around because they were in an RV supplied by Holland America cruises, which was great for their promotional trips, but not so good for getting an alcoholic beverage on the fly. The second time she was down south, she and a friend went for it in a rented car supplied for them while the RV was parked in a floor show and found that a daiquiri from the greater New Orleans area wasn't such a frou-frou drink.

On telling people here that we'd just been to Alaska, the first thing people here wanted to ask us about were the short summer nights and the midnight sun experiences there. I sleep through anything, so it didn't affect me much, but it had Dan regularly waking up thinking he'd overslept and started to fall behind his schedule, only to take a glance at a clock and realize it wasn't ten in the morning but 4 AM, despite the daylight shining through the window at that early hour.

At long last, everyone's imagination concerning travel is all about the perks and the quirks.

Alaska Journal

Change and Alaska haunt me still.

Somehow our cell phone service had changed and was putting out loads of entertainment that was annoying, unnecessary, and not part of our contract. No one, not even newfound friends, had been notified of the change. Initial panic gave way to acceptance of the new - and then Dan informed me that we were moving to Anchorage. I was angry, demanding to know why he'd sprung that decision on me.

"Didn't you listen?" he asked with a smile. "I told you seven times before."

Chastened, I set about tidying a lawn nearby at what I thought would be our home: a sprawling place that was not unlike the 7 Gables Inn in Fairbanks, in which we'd stayed a night before heading back to the lower 48. Local people thought I was nuts, as there were no guarantees that we'd end up in the place, but I had to do something.

I had to wake up from this. And I did, in the early afternoon on my in-laws' living room couch.

We only had a small taste of Alaska, I know. It's a huge state...and the engines of tourism have been churning there for quite some time. Our travels were chock full of fellow travelers, and of residents who were born and raised elsewhere but call the state home now - and our brushes with native American - Alaskan tribe members were at the Heritage Center in Anchorage and in one reeking-of-cigarettes cab in Fairbanks we took from the train station to the 7 Gables. To really get Alaska, one has to read and read and travel and travel some more in the state. As it is, Dan's plans were a much-abbreviated version of his first-ever wishful experience of researching a trip: he's wanted to go this far north and west since his high school days. The kiddo now wants to come back in winter to see the aurora borealis...but I personally haven't much hope for revisiting Alaska unless it's between the pages of books.

Couldn't resist getting a few:
Walking My Dog, Jane - Ned Rozell (more on Rozell here)
Amazing Pipeline Stories - Dermot Cole

Others of interest:
Shopping for Porcupine - Seth Kantner
Mind of the Raven - Bernd Heinrich
Saving for the Future: My Life and the Alaska Permanent Fund - Dave Rose, Charles Wohlforth
Not One Drop - Riki Ott: an important one in the context of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, as it examines the ongoing trials of Prince William Sound residents in the decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

So our travels ended in a flurry of plane trips - Fairbanks to Seattle, Seattle to San Jose for the little guy and me - and on to New Orleans for Dan. Two weeks in No-Cal are ahead for the kiddo and me. Right now, I have no problems sitting still. None at all.

But I do know we're not moving to the 49th state anytime soon.

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