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Susan & Bill's Alaska Trip
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Susan & Bill’s Holiday

 

In

 

ALASKA

 

 

4 August (Thursday)

 

Columbus Ohio to Minneapolis (via Northwest)

Minneapolis to Seattle (via Northwest)

Seattle to Ketchikan arr 332 PM (via Alaska Air 69)

 

[Bill] Ann dropped me off at the airport early on her way to work.  Fortunately, Columbus is not busy this morning, considering I have four pieces of luggage, and all are quite full and heavy.  There was a minor mix-up that only marked my luggage to be sent as far as Seattle, but the gate agent is reasonably certain that all four pieces were re-located and re-tagged for Ketchikan. But I should check to make sure in Seattle.  I’ll only have 2 hours on the ground there, but this will be a good trial run to see how things will go with Susan in two days when she has 6 hours, but will have Mystique to deal with.

The flights are uneventful and I manage to watch a half dozen episodes of Profiler on the first two flights.

I took my time after landing at Seattle.  Sure enough, the gate that I was told Susan will arrive at is near the escalator down to the subway platforms.  One stop, and I’m at luggage.  I wait at the carousel whilst all the luggage from my flight passes by – no sign of mine – this is good.  I headed up the nearest elevator, and come straight out at the Alaska Air counter; repass through security, and head for the Ketchikan gate.

The whole process took less than 30 minutes, so I am certain Susan should not have too difficult a time.

My seat-neighbour on the flight to Ketchikan is a long-term local, who proceeded to tell me all about Ketchikan when he discovers that I am moving there, The flight passed quickly, and soon we’ve landed in a steady rain, not unusual for a rainforest.  Since our new car is not supposed to be delivered for a few days yet, I had already arranged for a Chevy Tracker from Budget Car Rental.  After leap-frogging all my luggage to the car (fortunately, the car rental parking is a very short distance – the whole of Ketchikan International Airport would fit in most major airports parking lots.)


AppleMark

I went straight for the ferry, which was currently loading for the city, and within 10 minutes, I am at my new home.  And that’s exactly how it feels: like home.  Then to XXXXX Reality, where Bill XXXXXX was patiently waiting for me with the keys to the flat.  I follow him in my car into an area of Ketchikan I have not been to yet – up on the boardwalk roads on the side of the mountain.  The roads are quite steep and windy and narrow – very grateful I am driving an automatic.  Street parking is a bit scarce, but we finally located a spot for me, grab my luggage, and we both head up to Unit 3, on the second (or third, or first, depending on which side of the building you are looking at!) storey.  Bill gave me a quick tour of the unit, and gave me with pertinent phone numbers.  The he imparted the bad news – the house won’t be ready to close for quite possibly a month yet; the appraiser is not even due until tomorrow.

This could be a bit of a problem in that Susan is here to help set up the house, and he’s talking like it might not close whilst she is here.  We check out a calendar, and see if we can’t push it to two weeks – at about the time we are due back from Anchorage.  In the meantime, he’d arrange it so that we can get in on Monday so that Susan can actually see our new house for real, rather than through the numerous photos I’ve sent her, and therefore we can start getting things set up for when the house does close.

Now that I can sit down for a bit, the first order of business is to ring Ann and let her know I made it here safely.  Second order is to ring Susan and let her know that I have in fact arrived, and that her passage through Seattle with Mystique should be as easy as Alaska Air had described to me previously over the phone.  I reached her on the first try; she was rushing around trying to get everything done in the next few hours.  She is relieved I made it there in one piece without accident and that I will be at the airport to meet her when she arrives, as well as giving me a list of things I need to pick up before she and Mystique arrive.

 

5 August (Friday)

[Bill]

A busy day of running around to Safeway to get needed groceries, toys, and bowls for Mystique; find the Ketchikan Veterinarian for some Science Diet, a quick look at our new house to see how the move out is going, and the swimming pool to get the swimming schedule as well as fees.  Finally, the post office, where they have a hand truck for me with all the parcels on it waiting for Susan and me.

Most of the day is spent at the flat cleaning up and putting everything away, and at least have it presentable for when Susan arrives.  Hopefully, we’ll be in our new house by the time Ann arrives – the flat is nice, but there’s not enough room for three people and 6 dogs here.  If the house still hasn’t closed, the hospital will need to find us a larger flat.

It’s still raining, but the forecast for Susan’s arrival is a warm, sunny day.  This is good.

 

6 August (Saturday)

[Bill]

The weatherman was right – it is a beautiful, sunny day.  I finished getting everything set-up for Susan’s arrival later today, and then head out on foot to the Blueberry Festival in downtown Ketchikan.  I knew the streets were steep here from driving on them, but they feel even steeper when walking down them.   Didn’t have any specific directions to the festival, but there are a lot of people walking towards downtown, so I just followed them through the tunnel.  On the other side, the music could be heard quite clearly.

A giant blue and white balloon archway greets me to the festival, along with the smells of all the barbeques running with various foods for sale.  Too bad they’re all selling meat, but I do get an ice cream.  The festival is mostly arts and crafts by local artisans, but there are a lot of them for such a small community – the entire state office parking lot (both levels) is filled with stalls and booths, as well as several of the near-by streets.  I see a lot of things that might look nice in our new home, but since Susan is not here yet, I am hesitant to pick up anything, not knowing what she has exactly planned for themes.

I ran into my traveling companion from the inbound flight, who introduced me to his wife.  I also met several of the neighbours who live near the flat.  Everybody is very friendly, which is quite a change from Ohio.  I was given several offers of a ride home, but I decided to walk it as I had plenty of time, and it would give me a chance to explore… unless I get lost.

I tried to head straight back over the tunnel, and instead find myself lost in a maze of boardwalks and dead end streets.  Lots of old houses, wonderfully kept up, in a dazzling array of styles and colours.  Finally, I gave up and retraced my steps back to the festival and head back to the flat through the tunnel.

After cleaning up, it was time to head out – Susan was due to arrive shortly.  But first, I needed to pick up a small surprise for her.  Of the two florists in town, one is not open, and the other has only religious themes – I don’t think so.  So, it’s Safeway, and not only do they have some good ideas, but they have green daisies!

And it’s off to the ferry and the airport…

 

[Susan]

United 870

departs Sydney 6-8-05 145PM

arrives San Francisco 6-8-05 1005 AM

 

United 964

departs San Francisco 6-8-05 1250 PM

arrives Seattle 6-8-05 244 PM

Okay, according to the computer, it is now 11.09am which means I have been awake now for 30 hours… and I am dead tired.  I’m here in Seattle at the moment and what a beautiful part of the world.  What I have seen of it, that is.  From the air – the wonderful incredibly tall pines – and the jade green of the ocean here.  Everyone is incredibly friendly.  I didn’t have to get a Skycap in the end here – I managed to find Mystique and with the help of some friendly dog-lovers, managed to get Mystique collected and the luggage juggled, and everything safe and sound.  Sitting at the gate at the moment with an hour to go before I fly out and I thought I would at least make an effort to start this before I fall asleep and I have this feeling, I am not going to see Ketchikan from the air coming in --- I will be asleep.  I had a little nap on the flight between San Francisco and Seattle --- I wish I had had a camera for the flight as I had a lovely window seat – mind you it was literally the last seat in the flight!  We followed this really large river and I have no idea what it was, and then there was this incredible harbour/basin of Seattle with its fir-trimming.

Really uncomfortable flight from Sydney --- the kind check-in lady made sure I had a double seat so that I could rest with everything that hurts these days, and then these school girls decided they couldn’t possibly be split up so I ended up with a teenager sleeping almost on top of me the whole time and by the time we reached San Francisco, I really needed the help getting off the plane and through immigration, etc.  Mind you, they sent a little old asian lady who had a hard time struggling… and then, when the dog was picked up, she pretty well abandoned me to do it all myself.  Next time I will know.

So tired that I keep yawning at the moment, and my eyes are watering.  But don’t dare sit in a comfortable chair in case I fall asleep and miss the plane.  And this time I am in row 9!  Kind of used to getting in the back of the plane by now.

Weather’s really hot (just over 90 degrees F at the moment)… my hair is soaking wet already… I think I will be showering and washing my hair before I go to bed tonight … as long as I ring home, feed the dog, and get out of the shower before I fall asleep.

I don’t have no stamina no more…

Alaska Air 69

departs Seattle 6-8-05 724 PM

arrives Ketchikan 6-8-05 820 PM (Alaska Time Zone)

Arrived in Ketchikan 830 PM or something like that.  Concierge Bill was waiting at the security gate near the end of the jetway. 

Concierge Bill was waiting for me, as promised, complete with big green dolphin and a bunch of green daisies, and a nodding polar bear.  Even the trip to the city was great.  Standing on the deck of the ferry breathing in real air instead of the recycled stuff on the plane or airport.  Nose to the wind.  I love it.

Crossed from Ravilla Island to Revillagigedo Island on the Airport Ferry;

The Twins are both in Ketchikan now.  Watch out!

AppleMark

 

AppleMark

Concierge Bill was waiting for me, as promised, complete with big green dolphin and a bunch of green daisies, and a nodding polar bear.  Even the trip to the city was great.  Standing on the deck of the ferry breathing in real air instead of the recycled stuff on the plane or airport.  Nose to the wind.  I love it.

The drop to the ferry was a long way – apparently they have 16 foot tides here – easy to believe.

Made it to the store before real drag to the heels set in.  Still like that at the moment.  Nearly 12 hours later and am dead tired. 

7 August (Sunday)

[Susan and Bill]

It was a really glorious sight last night – the sun setting shining this pink gold hue over Ketchikan as the plan swung around and landed on the island nearby.  It was amazing.  So tired.

Sat up chatting for way too long last night, just catching up with the news of what is happening with the house, the move and everything else.

This morning is brilliant and bright and it’s supposed to be wet and miserable at the moment --- Ha!

The view is spectacular - and every five or ten minutes a sea plane takes off.  I’ve just resisted the urge to stand at the window and go “Da plane, boss, da plane.”  I guess around here that joke would wear thin very quickly.

Bill went down to the street to get the suitcase and dog crate out of the rental car (no, the ordered car hasn‘t arrived yet) and managed to press the panic button on the car alarm.  Well, Mystique barked at whoever was trying steal her crate (and incidentally the car)… and the neighbours all came out with some offering their 44 shot guns to silence the alarm… others offering interesting suggestions like shooting the battery, or shooting the alarm, or shooting the…

I’m only half kidding here.

Bill wrestled the car bravely and returned in triumph, spilling kibble all the way up the staircase.  Mystique was not amused.

We are walking her out the backyard,which is quite a slope.  And she is being mostly very good.  To say the least.  We’re very proud of how she handling all this.

The trees here are enormous and I don’t think I will be able to take enough pictures to be able to express what its like.  The mountains, the pines, and wonderful sea smell.

At about 10 we set out hoping that the Blueberry Festival was on again today, but it wasn’t, so had to make do with exploring the town with the compulsory two shiploads of cruise ship visitors.  Missed it by ‘that much’.  We did a brief tour of the tourist zone, where Mystique made friends with locals and visitors alike.  She was quite welcome in all of the shops we entered… thankfully, she is a little more graceful that Skyladd; otherwise, we would have even been more welcome in the store, after all of the glassware, scattered in pieces, was paid for after the ‘Tasmanian Laddie’ took a pass.  We admired some beautiful Alaska themed quilts until we discovered that the Mac Store was actually open on Sunday, and talked shop for a bit.

We continued our tour of Salmon Landing, buying scrapbook supplies at the Tourist Trap Curio Store, as well as an Alaska themed gift for our grandson, Connor, and one of the nephews in California.  Quickly obvious that the post office is going to on the agenda also.

By 3 pm, after a late lunch of, what else, fish and chips on Creek Street.  Mind you, it was halibut – and not flake and not too much of it as well.  Next time, we find a fisherman’s co-op.  The iced tea was exactly that – I had forgotten that Americans just brew up a pot of tea and then stick it in the fridge to chill.  I will remember next time.  Still, it was a very tasty… snack.

We then went for a drive through the tunnel to get out of downtown Kecthikan – honest – to escape from downtown you must go through a tunnel.  We toured the North Tongass Highway – all 18 miles of it.  Took in a quick visit to Totem Bight State Park – a very small park with a large group of totem poles recreated by native artisans, as well as a clan house you can actually walk into.  There were very few visitors at the park, bringing a pleasant silence over the area as we walked through the totem poles.  Exiting the clam house, you can actually come through the base of a totem pole.

AppleMarkAppleMark

We then continued on past ---------- Court.

We’ve actually driven over the boardwalk streets – you can tell, but they are all firmly covered in tar so it’s hard to tell… kind of.  Bit nerve-wracking.

Called into Safeway-Carrs and got my Safeway card which now makes me an official Alaskan resident since I can use it as ID as well

AppleMark

Dinner at Dockside Diner which is a great Mexican Restaurant… where we had the Italian meal…  Yummy.

Was really ill by the point from a sinus infection and the travel, so I fell into bed after we touched up the colour in Bill’s hair.  The twins are reborn.

 

8 August (Monday)

11 am – Portrait session in our new t-shirts.  Ann had t-shirts made up with our picture on it as ‘The Twins – Friends Forever”, and insisted we wear them for a portrait session she had set up for us.  The original camera-person’s equipment was broken, but a session was hastily arranged at the camera store, where the gentleman found us quite amusing, especially in the t-shirts.

Wandered around Salmon Landing (in the middle of tourist district) where several people took our photographs, and asked us if we were really twins.  After several complicated responses, we simply told anyone who asked – “No, we’re not twins, but we are best friends forever.”

Four cruise ships in so lots and lots of people and we went back to Dockside to have the seafood fajitas that we planned to have the night before.  Mystique dined on the kitchen leftovers out on their verandah overlooking the strait, and a bowl of water with ice cubes rapidly melting in it.  She got a great view, even though it was hot out there.

We dawdled over lunch --- Alaskan time --- and got to ----- Court late.

----- Court which was exactly as I had pictured it from the photos.  Still full of stuff though.  Also I [Susan] got to meet the wonderful Bill ------ who made me feel very welcome – as did ------, the gentleman who is selling the house.

Then went KPU (Ketchikan Public Utility) to set up our electrical, phone and internet – and finally got our email addresses activated – different to what we had told everyone.

Late afternoon we traveled the South Tongass Highway – trying to photograph salmon jumping (we missed) and finding a wonderful waterfall on the way.  Bill twisted his knee climbing over the rocks… so I could be driving the rest of the trip.


9 August (Tuesday)

Got up late.  Did the tourist area and saw our photo proofs.  Made a big leap of faith and ordered some of them… Wishing Ann was here.

We had halibut tacos ($10 for two lean tacos) and crab cakes ($11 for two tiny cakes) which were delicious but seriously overpriced.

Got mobiles set up with Mobile One which took them forever.  Had a talk with Gary the tech guy who will be cabling the house.

DSL was finally set up and we had email so we spent the evening checking the email and answering the mail.  Had a chicken from Safeway; wasn’t bad, but Sprinbgwood’s is better.  We’ve also both developed a taste for the lemonade in a bottle.  Fortunately, Safeway sells it in the 2 litre variety.

 

 

10 August (Wednesday)

We went to Sears to check out prices and washers, which they had on sale.  It’s a much smaller store than I expected, but is more a shop front that you can order from the on-line catalogue and have delivered to.

My first day of driving – Apart from having to tell me to drive on the right, dear, I did okay according to Bill.  Stopped in at the Post Office and no overnight packages so no clean socks for Bill.  This could be a smelly couple of weeks…

We also went to Hometown Furniture and selected the flooring.  Took photos to run past Ann, but we’re pretty sure which one she will prefer.  We then continued onto the Bar Harbor Restaurant, where we took Bill ----------'s advice and sampled the tasty halibut burritos. Once again had to leave Mystique tied up but within sight.  She’s not happy about this, but is good for us.  The burritos were as good a Bill had promised and the decking took great advantage of the views across the channel.

We also found Rainforest Gallery which is the closest thing to a scrapbook store in Ketchikan and were once again frustrated in our efforts to find an Alaskan themes 12 x 12 inch album.  Everything else is A4 and we would never fit the numbers of photos we are taking in those.  Thank goodness they love dogs around here.  Mystique is still introducing herself and being everyone’s friend.

Met Dr Dan at last, at the Ketchikan Vet Clinic.  Mystique passed her vet check with flying colours and ended up with an extra immunization against Kennel Cough.  Dinner was leftovers and chocolate chip mint ice cream (diabetic) and Mystique kept sneaking under the coffee table to take one grape at a time from the bowl on it.  We rang Alaska Air about the problem of getting the dog to the airport two hours before the plane when the ferry isn’t running at that time of day.  Therein we had loads of fun trying to get information.  

Bill did some laundry after spending ages trying to get the machines working – hobbling up and down the stairs outside frustrated – only to find the slots in the machine were mislabeled.  He did the underwear, thankfully, so we at least had clean socks and knickers for the morning…  Another late night as we had to pack for the week away.  I was still ill so it was hard to keep going and Mystique would not settle because there was something out back – possibly a bear – that she wanted us to investigate.

 

 

11 August (Thursday)

640 am flight from KTN; be on first ferry to airport at 6am (Alaska Airlines 73)

arrive 957 am Anchorage (ANC)

Up at 4.30 am and just couldn’t get moving.  So left at 5 am for the first ferry across at 5.15 --- didn’t even get gas in the car before returning it.  And it was a good thing that the Ketchikan Police weren’t up as we barely made it to the ferry.  We were the last car on. 

The terminal doesn’t actually open until 5.30, would you believe?  And with our 6.40 flight… well…. All rush, hurry and low and behold, ------ (the gentleman we are buying the house from) is the man on security checking luggage as we came through.  But we made it.

Mystique charmed all the employees.

The flight was packed to Juneau, but after that, we spaced out a bit and I took some great photos through the window.  When we stopped in Juneau, by the way, Bill tells me that we cannot get off, but he won’t explain why…. Apparently has something to do with his prior trip there with his friend Petra a fw years back.  Curiouser and cuiouser.

From Juneau on we got great views of the Inside Passage and miles and miles of glaciers and icebergs.  Lots of photos.

AppleMark

Bill promised me a polar bear and grizzly bear to greet me at Anchorage Airport, but they aren’t there any more – made way for the suspended glass glaciers through the amazing entrance well.  A good start, Mystique was already waiting for us at luggage collection, charming all the employees as usual.

At this point, though, we found hiccup number one for our day: Dollar Rentals do not take dogs in their cars and it took some time and negotiation to find that National did and we ended up with a white SUV at twice the price.

Feeling a little shell shocked, I rang ahead to the hotel to confirm our booking – only the Comfort Inn doesn’t take dogs too. Unless you are a smoker which Bill and I are not. My goodness. A few phone calls to Smitty who was in the backlots of the Zoo at the time, and we found her a place overnight…

Went to Carrs in Hoffman Plaza and got a new blood sugar tester because the US and Australian test strips are incompatible. This machine will live in the Batho-Hupe northern residence for when I am visiting,


AppleMark

Drove down the Seward Highway to the Whittier Tunnel. Made lots of stops on the way for the fabulous views. And made the tunnel (which is one-way) just in time for the current passage.

We had lunch of buffalo burgers and onion rings which Mystique definitely approved of in Whittier. Beautiful waterfalls. Great harbour.

AppleMark

I drove back through the tunnel whilst Bill took pictures. Grabbed chicken at Safeway and went back to the hotel.

Went to Petco – the supermarket for animals where I found ordinary mixed bred rabbits for $95 each!

 

Later on we dropped Mystique off at the Zoo where I met Tommy for the first time.  It was then he invited us back, ‘behind the scenes’ to help him feed his ‘kitties’ – a pair of Siberian Tigers named Al and Ed.  We strolled up the back access way of the zoo, Mystique in tow, sampling all the wondrous and strange smells, until we came to the rear of the tiger enclosure.

 

Tommy opened the rear door access, and in we went – into the tiger’s den!  He popped the food bowl in the cage, and then let in the first tiger for his meal, and we found ourselves standing, quite literally, 3 feet from the jaws of a Siberian Tiger!  Amazing, huge animals, that are starting to show their age by losing some


weight and having problems with arthritis.  We took some astounding close-ups of the tiger, and then Al snorted at me.  Bill explained that he was simply showing he liked me… maybe or maybe not for his dinner.

AppleMark


 

We spent over half an hour back there, as Tommy gave us the history of the brother tigers, and he cleaned the rear enclosure, but we kept coming back to the eating tigers.  Being that close to such an animal… what a special treat.  Mystique had to stay outside of the access altogether, which certainly did not make her happy, but it beat Al or Ed deciding that border collie might be a tasty hors’ duevre.

 

Finally around 10 PM, darkness settled in, and we had to regretfully big adieu to the two tigers and lock the access area up.  We waited for a few minuets while Tommy ran to take care of one thing, admiring some of the huge orange mushrooms that were growing nearby, and then it was time to leave the zoo.

 

We headed back to our hotel, while Tommy headed back to his trailer with Mystique, who he had graciously allowed to say with him for his days off and then would kennel her until our return from Fairbanks.

 

Another late night, but an experience we’ll never forget for the rest of our lives.

 

Stayed at the Confort Inn ship Creek, 111 w. Ship Creek Avennue, Anchorage.

 

 

12 August (Friday)

 

It’s very strange not to have to worry about our dog first thing in the morning.  It’s about 2.30 am on Saturday as I write this.  It’s been a very long day and we get our wake up call about 5 am to catch the 5.50 am shuttle bus to the airport to catch our flight to Barrow later on today.

 

I’ve done most of the driving today as Bill’s knee is getting worse and worse.  He’s in a lot of pain at the moment.  We forgot for him to take his pink knee pills for this long drive.

 

We had breakfast about 9.00am in the breakfast room of the hotel.  It’s a beautiful place.  Bill gave me a plate of biscuits and gravy and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all….

 

Gravy is white and made up with crumbled cooked sausage – beef we think.  It was a bit spicy.  And the biscuit was nicely cooked scones.  I should have had them with butter and jam instead, but it was good anyways.  We were a little distracted watching Regis and Kelly, but that was more in the form of groans as we couldn’t believe they were doing that.

 

We set out then for the road out of town, stopping to get a few things we thought we would need in making ourselves the artic blue twins from Ketchikan for our Barrow trip.  Eventually, and it must have been about 11 or later, we were on our way north.  North to Alaska seemed to be redundant, but it kept playing in my head as we headed for our first stop, Palmer.

 

The road was pretty straight and the trees were thick and there seemed to be an absence of layered undergrowth such as we know in our bushland.  There were mainly elms, and pine in no particularly order at all.  Bill says the area is probably replanted after being logged at some stage… I think it was a happy abandon of shades of green.

 

At Palmer, thirst got the better of us, and we got a really large Baja Blast – which is supposed a lime drink.  I could taste the lime, but I swear there was something else in there as well --- maybe caffeine … as I felt incredibly refreshed after having some.

 

We pulled into a lookout, which was across a wide glacial valley with fast running water.  Even though way up above it (logs looked like twigs in the water), you could see we were only on the high side of where it could be flowing during the spring thaw.

 

It’s very peaceful there.

 

With regret we headed back on the road, aware that it was still a long way to go.  We headed off to Denali via Hatcher Pass.

 


AppleMark

 

What a drive!  This is National Parkland and you can understand why --- the trees got thicker and wilder, and the wildflowers were brilliant against the greens.  We stopped to take photos along one of the rivers with its huge smooth boulders and rapid milky blue water… racing and frothing its way alongside the road.  Then drove on, up and up towards the Independence Mine.  Something we will do with GB along some day.  At that point, we had to make a turnoff to Willow to get onto the Park Highway and Denali… This dirt road did not inspire us with confidence, but it was obviously well traveled at this time of year…


 

The Pass took us up to the tundra, the frozen earth under the bare covering of green, land hugging plants. Short lichen-like species. Lakes of solidly frozen snow dotted the top of the Pass. Marmots darted across the road, some times, pausing just long enough to get the digital camera turned on – then darting under a rock before we could aim properly.  We came upon a serene lake at the top of the pass, along with a hint of the vista that we would have been afforded if the haze in the sky had not been so great.

 

We then descended the west side of Hatcher Pass, the road turning horribly rutted, twisted, and washed out – exactly the type of road forbidden by our car rental contract.  But at every bend we were greeted with the building torrent of water crashing over the boulders as the snow melt added to the flow.  The water is crystal clear, unlike the silt-filled waters along the Glenn Highway.

 

It was quite slow going, and the posted 23 miles to Willow (according to the odometer it was almost 40), took well over an hour and a half, but we finally found our way back onto rental-car approved pavement, and onto the Parks Highway, heading north.


AppleMark

 

The closer we got to Denali, the less the visibility became.  As we were told when we stopped, there was a huge fire at Eagle (on the Canadian border, a few hundred miles away) and the smoke was blanketing the upper 2/3 of Alaska.


 

Although it was getting late (after 8 PM), we did stop for a break at the Denali shops and picked up some more presents for family in Australia and California, as well as a splitting a sandwich from Subway.  We headed off for the last hundred miles to Fairbanks around 9, and although it was still very much daylight, the haze from the smoke was reducing visibility quickly.  That, coupled with extensive roadworks, made it 1130 before we pulled into Fairbanks.

 

We pulled into a restaurant Bill had been to before and had really enjoyed (an all you can eat Mongolian BBQ/Japanese/Chinese buffet).  The sign said open, but they told us they were closed inside.  Upon returning to the car, we discovered the digital camera was nowhere to be found.  We pulled the car apart – no luck anywhere.  The only thing we could think of was that we had left it at one of the shops at Denali, and since we had an early flight to Barrow in the morning, there was no time to return to Denali to locate it, and we weren’t about to go to Barrow without a digital camera.

 

So, it was off to Freddie’s (Frey Meyer’s), whose the door said they closed at 11 pm, but they were still open.  We rushed to the camera part of the store, and found the newer model of the one we had lost.  When we tried to pay for it: the cash register had been shut down, so there was a quick frantic search for a register still turned on.  It took a few, but one was found, and we were in possession of a digital camera once again.

 

Being well after midnight by now, we found a Carr’s/Safeway still open and grabbed a salad for dinner back at the hotel, to eat while we pulled out the blue dye and turned the ‘twins with red hair’ into the ‘twins with blue hair’.  It took us until 3.30 am to accomplish the blue streaking of our hair.

 

The hotel, by the way, had the nicest concierge at that hour of the day.  Nothing was too much trouble.  He even took the luggage up for us.

 

                   Springhill Suites Fairbanks, 575 1st Avnue, Fairbanks.

 

 

13 August (Saturday)

 

`                           Day in Barrow

                            Alaska Air Flight 143 depart Fairbanks 8 AM 13 August

                            be at airport by 645 AM

                            Return to Fairbanks same day at 9.05 PM flight 146

                            seats 19D-E both flights.

 

Up at 5.30 to catch the shuttle bus to the airport.  Dead tired doesn’t begin to describe how both of us felt.

 

Whilst waiting for the plane to Barrow, we could feel the earth move- literally.  It was one of those Alaskan earthquakes that they have all the time.  It was a bit unnerving.

 

The boarding announcements were a bit worrisome.  We were on an extremely full flight and they were worried about the weight of the aircraft, so no luggage would be put in the hold.

 

We finally did take off, and the flight was packed, with no room to spare.  The third person in our row, a school teacher in Barrow, explained that this was the last day of summer holidays and everyone was returning… and she was quite upset that her luggage wasn’t on board – until the stewardess came by and said the captain had taken it aboard into the cockpit.

 

There wasn’t much to see on the flight with all the haze between us and the ground, so we both caught some shut eye during the flight.  Thankfully, the smoke cleared as we got closer to Barrow.  Instead of the expected frozen tundra, all we could see out the window was actual lakes and green grass all the way to the horizon.  Then we heard the flight announcement stating that it was a balmy 60 degrees in Barrow.  When Bill, Ann, Colleen, and Keiko had done this same journey 12 years ago, on almost the same date, Barrow was having a heat wave of 32 degrees.  Whoever still thinks global warming is a fable needs to get a reality check and visit Barrow.

 

We landed just a few minutes late, and found ourselves in a packed, tiny terminal and hardy able to move. There were so many people!  If was an interesting experience to deplane from a 737 with the engines still running (and very loud), but due to the extreme cold temperature when gaining any altitude, all of the fluids in the plane had to be kept warm –- hence, the engines were left running. 

 

We quickly found someone who directed us to our tour bus waiting outside – Tundra Tours.  First impressions were grey mud, drizzle grey wooden buildings. We boarded the bus, and after everyone was rounded up, we were off.  Our guide, Mona, an Inuit local, introduced herself as she started the bus trundling off… drove for about 30 yards, brought the bus to a stop, and announced the tour was complete.  Actually, it was the first of many bad jokes she told in her monotonal way.  In fact, we were at the Barrow Information Center, as well as the Wiley Post and Will Rogers Monument, honouring the two American folk heroes who were killed in a plane crash near Barrow about 70 years ago.  We took photos.

 

We hopped back on he bus for another short drive, this time to a recently-discovered buried home over 600 years old, including remains in the main house of an adult and young girl, as well as a third in the sub-house.  Apparently, it was usual at that time to bury your dead underneath your house.  Not much to be seen except for a small mound indicating where the


excavation was.  From there, it was to the “Welcome to Barrow” or “Paglagivsigin Utqiagmun’ in the native language.  We of course had to have our photo taken with it: The Twins were officially taking on Barrow. And we have a camera! Watch out residents!

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As we continue to drive around, it is amazing to note how green the area is – and how warm it is.  Glad we wore t-shirts today.  Bill continues to be stunned about the huge changes in the environment since his trip here twelve years ago.  Grass and tundra cotton abound, instead of the grey mud he had seen last time.  We make a stop at the Barrow Beach, where everyone is invited to dip an appendage in the Artic Ocean.  I showed no


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fear and dipped my hand in it (Bill took pictures to prove it!).  Cold, very cold, but not as cold as I thought it would be.  And very salty when I tasted it.  (I learnt this trick from watching Due South)

 

All of the buildings are built on stilts, which is probably a good thing considering the ground is frozen about 18 inches down, and the huge amounts of standing water.  Open-hulled boats are scattered all about, and there are even birdhouses!  Well, one birdhouse.  And yes, I took a photo of it.


 

Mona continued our tour of Barrow, pointing out the various restaurants, shops, post office, etc, and then we headed out of town, where a vast array of satellite dishes stretched from the road to the horizon.  Mona explained that these were all communications satellites – connecting Barrow to the rest of the world.  And Barrow helping to connect the rest of the world. We then continued on to one of Barrow’s two cemeteries, and we were shown the gravesite where the remains from the just excavated hut were buried.  Mona explained that because of the severe winter cold and the permafrost, people who die during the winter must be stored until the summer, when heavy equipment can dig far enough into the ground to bury the dead.

 

At this point, the bus turned around and we headed back to town for our choice of lunch.  On the way, Mona mentioned that volunteers would be accepted later in the afternoon who wished to join the Polar Bear Club.  Bill had told me about this one, and anybody who knows me in the slightest knew my response was “Two chances, chum.”  But, believe it or not, I actually started discussing it with Bill, who had done it the first time he was here, albeit it was considerably colder.  By the time we arrived back in town, we had made a pact: The Twins would do it together, or not do it at all.

 

Although we had our choice of several eating establishments (Chinese, Japanese, pizza); our choice was obvious: Pepe’s North of the Border, Barrow’s Mexican restaurant.  Big Bill had made quite an impression the first time he was here, and we wanted to see if he was even allowed back in.  We were quickly seated and browsed the menus, ordering a shrimp dish, for starters, and chimichongas and fajitas so I could sample a few of the dishes.  There’s something a little unreal to be sitting this close to the North Pole and eating Mexican food.

 

Then the owner of the restaurant, Fran Tate, came out, and explained to us all that there were postcards on every table that we could write out and she would post home for us, and if we signed the guestbook, she would mail each and every one of us a calendar at Christmas.  She then started going to each table and greeted each visitor.

 

I have to explain that Fran is very short, even shorter than I am. And when Bill had been here before, and she realized how tall he was, she had Big Bob, the world’s tallest Inuit, located and brought to the restaurant, where it was determined that Bill was even taller than Bob.  Fran insisted on a photo, and from Bill’s description, she looked like the filling in an Oreo cookie in that photo.


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When Fran made it to our table, she stared long and hard at Bill, and asked if she knew him.  Bill said he had been here 12 years earlier, and that’s when she recognized him – 12 years later!  She told us her son had waited on us and had told her that Bill looked awfully familiar – like he was in one of the


of the photos that litter the walls of the restaurant.  Fran ran and got the returning guests present – a Pepe’s cap!  We continued to chat for a while; Bill introduced me as his best friend and twin – she loved our tshirts Ann had made for us with our photo on it.  We asked her about the Polar Bear Club and we were told to meet at the hotel at the conclusion of our tour and she would take us to the swimming area.  She then took our photo, and walked away laughing.

 

We ate a delicious leisurely lunch; almost too leisurely – we were the only ones left in the restaurant from the tour by the time we finished.  As we left the restaurant, we took a closer look, and found the photo of Bill, Bob, and Fran posted in several places about the restaurant – including the place of honour above the door.  We went out to out bus, and seeing that it was still waiting, we went into the grocery store to take a look around, and hopefully find some Barrow scrapbooking themes.  It was very surprising: other than the large drying area at the entrance, the store looked like any other grocery store in America, or Australia for that matter.  Prices were considerably higher, of course, as everything must be flown in here, but the store carried just about anything you could possibly need to survive in Barrow – from fresh produce and other food staples, to heavy clothing and even hardware!

 

We reboarded the bus and headed for the Cultural Centre, our next stop.  There we were treated to a fabulous display of native dancing and singing from the very young to the aged.  All were dressed in brightly coloured native costumes, and all were extremely talented.  They performed several


native dances and songs; a young boy who couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 was simply amazing – he had obviously worked very long and hard to familiarize himself with the dances.  An entire row of natives beat the drums that the dancers danced to.

 

We were mesmerized.

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As the exhibition came to a close, we were all invited to join in one last dance, which I quite happily volunteered to do. Bill sat and took photos of my dancing, as his knee had been playing up all day, and there was no way he was up to it.

 

Out of breath, but enjoying myself immensely, I returned to my seat while the native children displayed the use of some of their toys – yo-yos, and an object that one twirls above his head and off to the side that makes a high-pitch whistling.  Everything was made out of locally found items.  Then, the natives gathered together with a huge blanket made of sewn-together seal skins.  Our host explained that if enough of the guests volunteered to assist, they would be able to demonstrate one of their favourite games – the blanket toss.  Several of the men from the tour group went forward, and some of the women, but they still needed a corner person, and everyone was looking at Bill.  So, he hobbled forward and took a corner.

 

It was explained that the goal was to hurl the person standing on the blanket into the air high enough that he or she could touch the ceiling (about 8 metres or so high).  This would be accomplished by everyone pulling the blanket outwards, and thereby pulling it taut.  After a few trial runs with a small Inuit girl, the countdowns began in earnest.  She was hurled higher and higher, but not all the way to the ceiling.  The host was about to call it quits when everyone gave it one last try – and her hand touched the ceiling!  Then the young native boy who had stunned us all with his dancing, climbed on the blanket, and he was sent to the ceiling in short order.  Then a adult climbed on – and up he went too!

 

We cheered and thanked the natives, and the exhibition was finished.  Outside in the lobby, many of the local artisans had gathered with their wares on display and for sale; mostly carvings or scrimshaw, on bones, as well as some clothing, mittens, gloves, etc.  All very nice items, and I would have loved to take some home, but all of the items, having been made from animal products are illegal to take into Australia.  So, we settled for going into the giftshop, where Bill located the greeting card he had told me about – “Midnight Sun” a photo taken once an hour a Barrow on a day where the sun never set.  Simply amazing.  We bought a pair, as well as a couple of other art prints, and promised to contact the artist, Tom Soucek, when we got back to Anchorage about prints of Midnight Sun.

 

We reboarded the bus and headed north out of town, towards Point Barrow itself.  Along the way, we stopped at the University of Alaska Branch, where some local artifacts, including those from the hut we had been shown earlier in the way, were on display.  We then went to the northernmost bridge in North America – can’t drive over it, but you can walk on it, so we walked onto it and one of our fellow tourists snapped a photo of the twins.  We also made a short stop by the only tree in Barrow, one very dead-looking Palm tree.  We then made it to the Point itself, the northernmost spot on the mainland of North America, where the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas meet.  It is very windy and grey; the water is very choppy, and the whole area looks very very desolate.  It also looks very cold.  Didn’t stop one of the locals though – we could see a powerboat on the water hading towards us!  The temperature is dropping, so we don our sweatshirts, which we were very grateful to have on board the bus.

 

It’s back to Barrow, where our tour is completed in front of the hotel.  Some of our fellow travelers had selected the overnight option, and were booked into this rather inviting looking establishment; the rest of us had about an hour until our flight.  We made enquiries about doing the swim, but we needed a change of clothes as we weren’t staying overnight.  We were directed to he giftshop – but there were no shorts to be had.  The receptionist placed a quick call to Fran at Pepe’s and she had some shorts we could purchase – with the Pepe’s logo, of course!  Time is very short, although we have been assured that the shuttle will get us to our flight in plenty of time.  I dash over to Pepe’s and purchase two pairs, we quickly change in the washroom, then hurry out the door to catch up with the rest of the ‘swimmers’.

 

We have both completely lost our minds.  It’s fifty degrees out there, we’re standing on a beach in Barrow in short black shorts and tshirts with our picture on it, taking off our shoes and socks, planning to swim in the Artic Ocean.  The water temperature is only 47 degrees.  Two other people have already been in and out, and the dozen or so people standing around are looking at us: we’re next.  One of the onlookers offers to take our camera and record our insanity for posterity.  I surrender it without thinking.

 

I really should change my mind about doing this.  We look at each other.  We made a pact: The Twins will do this together.

 


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We take each other by the hand and step into the water.  Not as cold as I expected, but damn, it’s cold!

 

Full body immersion is required, so we need to go out a ways.  The water is way too shallow close to shore.  Bill leads me out further, and then the bottom drops down to my waist.  This’ll do.  We’re both shivering.  Full


body immersion.  We can do this.  Bill and I look at each other and start counting: 1… 2… 3.  Holding on, we drop, Bill is completely under; I only go in partially and I can’t breathe.  My inhaler’s back at the hotel.  I can’t breathe.

 

We look back at the shore – Fran’s shaking her head.  I didn’t make it; Bill did.  Bill is shivering madly as he tells me he will do it again with me, if I want to try again.  I don’t answer – I just start counting.  Bill tries to pull me down with him on the count of 3, but I can’t do it.  I can’t breathe.  It’s too cold.  I can’t breathe.

 

I turn to head back to shore, but Bill stops me.  “You can do this – remember: Best friends do this together.”

 

“I can’t breathe.  I can’t go under.”

 

“So we cheat.  Bend over.”

 

I bend over and stick my head in the water, an d Bill madly scoops water over my head and back until I’m drenched.

 

We look at Fran – she’s got her thumb up.  I did it!  The Twins did it – we


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joined the Polar Bear Club.  We stumble back to the beach, drenched, shivering, freezing, holding each other upright.  We’re greeted ashore by everyone, who is congratulating us.  I just want to get back to the hotel and dry off and warm up – I forget about the camera.


 

We stumble back to the hotel, and we both start laughing when Bill asks if I realize we are both walking in our bare feet in Barrow, Alaska.  Leave it to Bill to find a way to make me laugh at a time like this.  Bill chivalrously (or is that shiverlrously?) lets me change and dry off first – damn good thing we brought our Alaska sweatshirts along.  Then it’s Bill’s turn to change. and we are rushed off to the airport – only 10 minutes until our flight.

 

The van driver informs us on the way that we will be there in plenty of time – the incoming flight has been delayed.  But still, we breath a sigh of relief when we get there and the airport is packed.  We quickly find seats so we can brush our hair out, and as luck would have it, we sit near the woman who had kindly taken our camera to take our picture.  She brings the camera over to us and shows us the great photos she took, plus her sister had also taken photos, and promised to email them to us.

 

We have a pleasant conversation with the two ladies while waiting for our flight – of course, one of their first questions is if we really are twins.

 

Before we know it, the plane has arrived, is quickly offloaded, and then we are called to pass through security and into the plane, and strap ourselves in.  I’m still cold.

 

The pilot comes on and tells us that we will be delayed while they add extra fuel to the plane – Anchorage Airport is closed due to fog, and Fairbanks may also be closed thanks to all the smoke from the fires: we may be rerouted to Kotzabue.  Bill says Ann worked there one winter and he always wanted to see Kotzabue, but not today – some other time when I’m over.  I don’t know – I’m still buzzed – we did it – we joined the Polar Bear Club!

 

We take off finally, unsure of where we’re headed.  The plane is only half full, so the stewardess offers Bill another seat up front to give us some space to spread out.  I fall asleep.

 

When I wake up, we are descending into Fairbanks.  Can hardly see a thing with all the smoke, but at least we are landing at the right airport.  We call the hotel for the shuttle on our way through the airport, and wait out on the curb.  The air is heavy and thick with the smoke.  Two of our fellow tourists come up to us – they’re from Canada – and we discuss the trip and the fire until the shuttle arrives.

 

Still bound and determined to get to the Mongolian/Chinese/Japanese restaurant, we get into our rental and head straight back, but tonight they’re closed early.  So it’s time for the next best thing – Pizza Hut – neither of us have had pizza in quite some time, so we can cheat on our diets for one night.  We’re quite hungry, and we consume the entire pizza, garlic bread and pitcher of Sprite in short order.

 

Exhausted, tired, but full and satisfied with ourselves, we head back to the hotel to download the pictures to the laptop and fall into bed.

 

What a day: in less than 25 hours, we both dyed our hair blue, took a tour of Barrrow, and joined the Polar Bear Club.  Just another day neither one of us will never forget.

 

14 August (Sunday)

 

We actually got up at a reasonable hour this morning and were treated to a wonderful breakfast of eggs, reindeer sausage, juices, and waffles – with, get this – real peach topping (peaches have to be flown in from the lower 48), all part of our night’s stay.  A touch on the expensive side, but the Springhill Suites is definitely recommended.

 

After breakfast, we wandered across the street to admire the fountain, only to find it had been turned off during the night.  But we did get some


nice photos of the statue honoring the pioneers and builders of Fairbanks.  Everywhere there is colour although the smoke is really bad.  Then someone came over and made us an offer that we could not resist… a bit of Shakespeare in the park.

 

Now, a bit was a bit of an understatement:  it was a whole lot of Shakespeare.  It was all of “Much Ado About Nothing” which was being taken to New York as part of the Fringe Festival there.  It was as much fun as I remembered…  And we were thoroughly entertained for two hours, which meant then that we went quickly on our way after the play was over.

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Traveling down to Denali was like driving through thick fog over the roadworks which, apparently, is perpetual in this part of the countryside.  Not easy driving.

 

We arrived in Denali and tried immediately at the Subway because I had a horrible feeling whilst watching the play that that was where the camera had been left.  The nice lady behind the counter promised to ask her boss, so we started to backtrack and went into each of the shops we had visited on Friday.  The first remembered us right off, and was very apologetic; however, at the second, after walking up to the same clerk that had served us, and mentioned a missing camera – “We’ve got it upstairs.”


A minute later, we were re-united with it.  We took a shot of The Twins to celebrate.

 

So, we grabbed some ice cream and a sandwich for the road, and headed out again.  It was already 5 PM… and 250 miles to Anchorage.

 

By midnight, we had only made it as far as Wasilla, so it was the usual stop at a Carr’s/Safeway for a salad to share, call the hotel to let them know that we were still coming, and back on the road again.  Late night, of course, since we didn’t arrive until 2 AM.

 

15 August (Monday)

 

A quiet day at last… we went shopping.  Bill’s really ill with his headache and knees and we both slept in having arrived last night.  First stop: post bail for Mystique at the Doggie Motel on 68th Street.  We arrived at 11:30 to the sound of the inmates banging their food bowls against the cell bars (just kidding).  But she was quite happy to see Mom and Dad.

 

We loaded her up and headed off for Sam’s Club to do furniture and TV shopping for the new house.  Got a few ideas there, but not too successful.  If we buy something there now, they don’t do containers anymore of furniture… because of homeland security.  Each piece has to be shipped to the airport, then they go on as air freight.


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We had lunch Downtown (there’s a song there somewhere) at the Alaskan Salmon Bowl and had salmon chowder with fresh salmon sandwiches for a whole $7.95 each (after finally locating the restaurant – Bill’s faulty memory had


us walking all the way down 5th Street – and it was on 4th. ) .  Talk about great food!  It was incredibly pleasant there.  I know I said it about Fairbanks, but the flowers…. Everywhere there are flowers and I took loads of photos of flower beds.  And public art – I love public art.  Obviously Alaskans have a great sense of humour and there’s been a competition with salmon – salmon as in statues.  A blank metal ‘statue’ of a salmon was provided and people made art with them and we saw “salmon-ella” and


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We shopped at Polar Bear Gifts, Grizzly Gifts, and Once in a Blue Moose.  Mystique went with us at each of these places and we bought her some salmon treats…


 

We sampled reindeer sausages and Mystique approved.  They were really flavoursome and spicy and we got the non-hot ones.  We had decided not to have the meal deal… which proved to be a mistake and went back and got our can of lemonade… swapping grins with the cook!  The next people did what we did – and just took the sausage on a roll…. And we just exchanged smiles as we walked off.  They’d learn.

 

From the city and its glorious colours we headed to the huge Borders store which was near the Petco that Mystique approved of and got us some Alaska books before we had dinner at The Royal Fork which was a pleasant all-you-can-eat restaurant.  We did a good job of that one.  Although Mystique wasn’t too impressed with the baked ham we snuck her for a treat.

 

We then visited Tommy. An amazing, wonderful man that I could spend hours with just talking.  I met Sasami (which should be Tsunami!) the beagle cross who turned out to be a love, and the two dogs set up their pecking order – Sasami coming over the top of the couch to sit next to us and Mystique claiming the feet.

 

I bored Tommy for hours with photos of our trip and of home and he showed me great photos of the animals he has hand reared at the zoo and the moose that moved into his front yard that his dog has been protecting the trailer from ever since!

 

We did not get to bed early.  No surprise by this point.

 

16 August (Tuesday)

 

We actually did get up with the alarm at 6.30 AM, grabbed a quick shower and breakfast, and headed out for Seward.  A beautiful, clear day, perfect for the drive to Seward along the Seward Highway (A1 and A9), considered to be the most scenic drive in North America.  With the bit of rain the day before, the skies were perfectly clear, providing a stark contrast to the haze fill skies we had for the drive to Whittier the previous week.


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We made numerous stops along the way to snap photos, including a nice shot of the twins against the backdrop of Turnagain Arm, as well as a brief movie of the outgoing tidal bore.  It’s amazing to watch the tide go out in waves.  Unfortunately, we did have to get on to Seward as we had to be there by 1145 am, and it is a 2 1/2 hour drive under the absolutely best of conditions. 


But, traffic was surprisingly light (the lightest Bill had ever experienced during his numerous trips down this road), and we made it with almost 2 hours to spare.

 

This is not Seward itself but Seward North where the boats are all moored and what boats… a picture-perfect setting of a sheltered breakwater harbour, rows of white yachts and trawlers, and motor boats, and cruise ships, all waiting patiently against a background of mountains and the hint of snow and ice, and glaciers.

 

What a place!

 

We spent a while browsing the shops before settling on a few bookmarks, and went to the Northern Star where we were met by Captain Jay, our Ranger for the day, and various crew members.  Our photo was taken (yes, we purchased two copies of the photo) and we settled into our table for the cruise… table 7… with a pair of elderly ladies who were entertained by the idea we were twins and a young couple from Ohio who were a little worried when we started being cheeky.  But they were all great traveling companions and we had a good time with them.

 


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However, being a boat lover from the day my cousins, Tom and Barry, took me out in their row boat on Sussex Inslet, I was out of there and out on the deck and looking for wildlife.  And there was wildlife aplenty.  We were barely out into the


harbour when we were greeted by a pair of frolicking sea otters… well, sort of.  After the ranger explained that they were probably playing, but if one were to bite the other on the nose, they were mating.  It was only a few moments before he announced, “Well, we’ll move on for now,” amid comments of “get a room”.

 

We continued out of Seward Harbour into Resurrection Bay, with amazing backdrops of glaciers and a geologic anomaly of basaltic rock mountains from the Pacific Plate that had torn off at some point in the distant past and came up over the North American Plate.  It wasn’t long before our table was called for the buffet, and what a buffet it was.  All you can eat silver salmon caught locally, prime rib from Omaha that melted in your mouth, salad, and rice.  To say it was delicious is an understatement.

 

It got chillier as we got further on out towards the open waters of the North Pacific, so we donned our Alaska sweatshirts, and settled back.  Soon, we came upon a bald eagle in a treetop, who posed patiently while all us tourists snapped his photo, and then a group of sea lions sunning themselves on one of the guano-covered rocks thrusting up out of the bay.  Teenage sea lions we were told, readily identified as they were laying about and doing nothing.

 

And hundreds of birds of various species; the most remarkable being the puffins, with their black and white bodies and orange bills.  There weren’t many of them, and those that were there hit the air as we came past – with their short sings compared to the gulls and terns who were chatting loudly in their rooks.

 

Out in the open bay we all took turns at skimming the water looking for


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any sign of whales.  And, as we were heading towards Bear Glacier, we were rewarded with the slim tall fin of an adult orca.  Then, amazingly, the rest of the pod surfaced and Bill steadied me in the open water, with its inevitable waves, as I took as much footage as I could of them.  Five altogether in a pod that had not been


 

in the bay before.  Four adults and a baby.  I managed to take what I thought was a pretty spectacular shot…  Next time a digital SLR with telephoto lens.

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But the feeling of elation kept us all high for the rest of the trip.  The beauty of the bay was incredible, the stories of the 1964 earthquake which nearly wiped out Seward completely with its tsunamis, and then, an eagle’s nest with two eaglets still in it.  Wow!  And sea otters on each side of us.

 

Smiling we left the boat, vowing we would do it again.

 

We did a quick trip into Seward itself and I think this whole area you could spend days in exploring.  But we didn’t have much time.  Picked up a couple of things, and headed out of town. 

 

On the way home we took a detour to Exit Glacier.  I still can’t say I’ve


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touched a glacier – Ranger Amy would have not liked that at all (apparently, Bill did it when he had been there 2 years ago and got yelled at) – but I have stood close enough to feel the heat being sucked out of me --- crossing the quick flowing water coming from the glacier as she melts. 


And the glowing blue colour! Amazing.  The side trip took a lot longer than we thought, but it was truly worth it and we walked back with Ranger Amy, chatting, aware that a black bear had been seen in the area not a long time before.  But we got back to the car safely and headed into town.  It was about 9:45 before we hit Anchorage again.  A quiet drive, thank goodness.  We stopped at Carrs for some chicken and salad and headed back to our room to download the photos, and gloat and moan over them alternately.  It was 1:30 am before we hit the bed again.

 

17th August (Wednesday)

 

We had a small sleep in, and headed off to pick up Mystique. We decided that we would keep her with us at night rather than try and organize and pick her up at some incredible hour of the morning.  Realizing we only had one day left in Anchorage, we dashed around, trying to get all the stops in that we needed to do.  First, we hit up a stamping shop, who had some fireweed stamps and interesting ink pads, but not much in the way of scrapbooking otherwise, although they did put us on to another store, not listed in the phone book, on Denali Avenue, back towards downtown.  We vowed to try and get to that store, but we have oh so many stops to do.

 

We then went to Sam’s Club and Office Max, an office supply store, to look at computer desks for Bills’ room.  Came across several ideas that we might order, but that can be done online, and it was rapidly approaching lunchtime.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, though – lo and behold – here was the Amish furniture store we had been trying to locate since our arrival in Anchorage!  Sigh.  Closed.

 

Seeing as we were already on the road, we decided to postpone lunch and dash for the scrapbook store that the stamping store had told us about earlier.  Miracle of miracles, we found it without any trouble.  And what a good things it was we went there – 12 x 12 scrapbooks, at last!  Not Alaskan themed, per se, but she had all sorts of ideas and tips how to make them Alaskan themed, and had lots and lots of spare pages for the matching pair of books we purchased, so as not to repeat the problem we had with our Australian books – filler pages not fitting.  Plus, we purchased stickers, paints, and lots of other goodies, spending way too much at the store, not to mention the time was getting late.

 

We then headed back south towards the zoo for our tour with Tommy.  Figuring we had enough time, we stopped at Taco Bell, so that Bill could introduce me to an entire sampling of Mexican food.  Okay, it’s fast Mexican food, but there were some things I had only heard of, and a lot of things I never had heard of before.  So, we ordered an array of items, a giant Baja Blast to drink, and proceeded to sample Mexican food.  Burritoes, tacos, gorditas, quesadilla, etc.  Some were better than others, but definitely a delicious education

 

A little late, after giving Mystique a break and a walk, it started to rain – and we had left our umbrellas back at the hotel, seeing as how nice a day it was going to be.  No time to run back; we were already late for our appointment with Tommy.  So we dashed down to O’Malley Road and sped to the Alaska Zoo.  Tommy had just arrived in the parking lot, looking for us.

 

First, it was back up the accessway to the zoo, and then the grand, ‘poisonal tour’, began.

 

Where do I start?  Smitty took us from enclosure to enclosure, introducing us to each of the animals and giving us a bit of history.  Especially touching was the tombstone and grave for the elephant who had started the zoo off many years prior – the alternative prize in a radio contest – the winner chose the elephant rather than the cash, and so the Alaska Zoo was started.

 

Molly the snow leopard was sunning herself in a rock-mountain enclosure; very tall, to make the enclosure seem much larger than it truly is, with the limited space the zoo has available.  Then there was Billy the Reindeer; Elvis, Priscilla, Lisa Marie, and Riley, the Yaks; Athena (Doll Sheep); Petunia the porcupine; Turbo the river otter; Wilbur the Wolverine; Jake and Oreo, the brown bears; Wiley E Coyote, and a host of other animals, including Apuna, the polar bear   Apuna and Oreo were given to the zoo as rescues at a few weeks of age, and for over a year, the two, who are naturally mortal enemies, were raised as brothers, but they finally had to be separated as they began to play too roughly with each other.


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The Alaska Zoo is situated, originally on the outskirts, but the city has grown around it, on the south side of Anchorage.  It is an oasis of peace and nature in the middle of this metropolis.  There are not huge numbers of animals, but most of them are native to the Alaskan ecology, and great care has been taken to give them a


habitat close to their’s in nature.  Nearly all of the animals were taken in as rescues: injured, or parents killed in the wild; with little or no chance of survival if they were returned or remained in the wild.

 

The tour wrapped up around 5.30 pm, with a trip to the zoo shop and a chat with the lovely lady there.  We found that we were not the only people that loved Smitty – he’s well-loved and respected by everyone.  And we bought some souvenirs because it was our way of helping the zoo.  We planned to meet Smitty for dinner, but he still had a bunch of chores to do, as we decided to head for where we planned for dinner, the Alaska Sourdough Mining Company, to see how late they served dinner, as Smitty


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figured at least 8 pm.  Finding that they served until 10 pm, we let Smitty know and headed across the street to the Alaska Wildberry Company.  Lots and lots of souvenirs, but seriously overpriced.  We browsed for a while, then Bill introduced me to the massive chocolate waterfall.  Really – a chocolate


waterfall!  20 feet tall, spilling from bucket to bucket, to bucket, ending in a massive pool of chocolate.  18 feet high… made me want to get a straw, blood sugars be damned.

 

Sighing, we left the chocolate waterfall and headed towards the ‘Wildberry Zoo’, which had been added since Bill was there the last time.  It had started to rain again, but the kind concession stand loaned out umbrellas (of all the days to forget our umbrellas – the only day it rained during our trip north!).  Not too many people had braved the poor weather, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves.  We were beginning to wonder if the zoo actually had any animals, as the first few things we saw were the ‘photo-op boards’, where you popped your camera in a stand and then stuck your head through the holes and took your photo with a cartoon bear, etc.  We did this, of course.  Finally, we found some real animals – the reindeer enclosure… and they wanted an admission fee.  Since the sign promised you could pet the reindeer, we were prepared to pay the fee – except we couldn’t find anyone about.  Another couple came back – and they had no luck either.  However, as we started to walk off, an employee came up and offered to let us in for free.  He explained that because of the weather, they were closing, but he would bring a reindeer out for us to pet.  He spent the time explaining how they care for their reindeer better than the Alaska Zoo.  We diplomatically kept our mouths shut as to where we had just been and who our friend in Anchorage was.

 

Seeing as it started to rain even harder, we cut our zoo walk and headed back to the Wildberry Company.  We freed Mystique from the car and took up residence on the bench outside under cover, people watching and letting Mystique charm all the tourists.  Apparently, a lot of the cruise ships offer side tips to the Sourdough Mining and Wildberry places.

 

However, we did not have long to wait – Smitty called and was getting off early, so we put Mystique back and ran across the street to make reservations.  They weren’t too busy, being between tour buses, so we had no problems.  Smitty arrived a few minutes later, and we sat down in this delightful restaurant.  Obviously meant for tourists, it was fashioned after an old mining settlement eating house, complete with rustic décor, and even a dinner show, which we were unfortunately too late for.

 

Bill had promised me they had excellent seafood here, and the menu made it clear that was their specialty.  It was a hard decision, but I finally decided on prime rib and shrimp; Bill had the seafood sampler; Smitty had his old standby favourite, steak.  We also ordered absolutely delicious appetizers of stuffed mushrooms and a sampler plate of all sorts of seafood and other goodies.  However, when dinner came, we realized we had ordered way too much food – the servings were massive!  We did the best we could, but a doggie bag was the last request we had.  A bit on the expensive side, but certainly worth a return trip.  As with the journey so far, Bill’s experience on the various restaurants paid off again – a delightful meal.

 


However, it was getting late, so after again thanking Smitty for the tour and overnighting Mystique at the ‘Smitty No-Tel Motel’, and the requisite photos of the three of us, we had to part and bid him good-bye, promising to see him again on one of my annual return trips.  Bill will probably see him AppleMark


sooner, though, as he will only be a 2 1/2 hour plane flight away, and they have been friends for 12 years now.

 

We headed back to our hotel one last time, and crawled back to our room, both of us completely exhausted and it was approaching midnight, again, and we still had to pack for the flight in the morning.  We did notice on the way to our room that the hotel pool was finally open, after being closed for the last week… not that we had time to use that facility.

 

We started to pack our bags, and it didn’t take long for us to realize we had accumulated A LOT of stuff –mainly for the new house in Ketchikan, but also gifts to send home to the relos.  It took considerable manipulation, repacking, and plain-old-fashioned cramming, but the suitcases finally zipped shut.  We had only needed one bag coming up, but we had fortunately packed that bag inside a larger bag.  Bill estimated that one was just under 70 pounds, the other about 75 (70 pounds being the weight limit); not to mention a creative interpretation of one carry-on each – we each now had a scrapbook bag, overstuffed, of course, that we were calling ‘handbags’ (our usual purse Bill would hide behind his scrapbook bag so they hopefully wouldn’t notice the two handbags!), plus a computer bag, and yet another bag.

 

Yes, you guessed it – another late night.

 

18 August (Thursday)

                            Drop off rental car at terminal

                            7.38 am flight to Ketchikan Alaska Airlines 62

                                     (be at airport  at 6 am)

                            12.20 pm arrive at Ketchikan

 

It was an early morning rising to get to he airport by 6 am. We were a little late getting there, but we were assured our luggage (which was seriously overweight and had gone from one shared suitcase to two overstuffed suitcases with booty from Sam’s Club and souvenirs to send home) and a box – so we had to pay for excess baggage) and Mystique would make the flight just fine.  Security took forever to get through, and making our flight started to become a serious issue.  Finally, we were admitted to the gate area and we rushed for the gate.  Our plane was already well into the boarding process, but we still made it.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to call Ann to see if our new car would be waiting for us in Ketchikan.

 

Our traveling companion this time was a talkative young adult from Wrangell, who had apparently been to Anchorage for medical treatment.  Very friendly, but a little odd.  However, the short nights quickly caught up to us and we both nodded off.  Susan missed Juneau entirely this time, where we lost half our passengers, and by the time we left Wrangell, there weren’t that many people left aboard.

 

We arrived late in Ketchikan and found the nearest payphone to call Ann… and the cellphone went off, telling us we had messages.  Messages from Ann, saying to call her.  Needless to say, we went through 20 minute of chasing Ann who was chasing us, to find out the car was still in Seattle – we would need to rent a vehicle.  After our experience in Anchorage about rental cars and dogs, Bill went to gather our luggage and Mystique (we were already being paged to get our dog!), and I went to arrange for a rental car.

 

Unfortunately, there are only two rental car agencies in Ketchikan, and both had no vehicles available.  Now, this would be interesting, to say the least.  Then, the clerk at Alaska Car Rental remembered he did have one car available – did I mind a manual, obviously concerned about my accent.  A car’s a car, and we can both drive a manual, so I took it.

 

After a minor snafu with our credit card, we had our vehicle, and Bill went through the rain to get the car, while Mystique and I waited in the dry area.  We thought the first car was small and nearly impossible to get the dog crate into – this one was even smaller and low to the ground – both of our knees were going to pay for this car very quickly.  We finally managed to shoehorn the crate into the back seat, as well as some of the luggage (the trunk was quite small), and poor Mystique had a tiny cubbyhole to sit in.

 

We headed back for the flat so we could empty out the car, and give Mystique some space.  When we arrived, we discovered she had climbed on top of the crate in the back seat, and was jammed in place.  Took us a while to get her out, but we finally did extricate her.  Forever the gentleman, Bill took the heavy bags and I led Mystique with some of the smaller stuff up the three flights of stairs.

 

We had planned to check on the new house when we got in, but our answering machine already held the answers for us.  Another delay in the house closing, which also affected the monies for furniture, flooring, etc.  So, rather than head for the new house, we headed to Safeway to restock the larder, as well as going by the public swimming pool to see about getting our memberships and getting back into the daily swim routine.  We had hoped to go swimming today, but we got there just as open swimming had completed, so we would have to return another day.

 

Instead, we returned to the flat and had salmon burritos that Bill prepared for dinner, and had a quiet evening of watching a couple of Due South episodes, unpacking, and playing a game of Alaska Monopoly, having purchased a pair of them up north – one for Ketchikan and one for Australia.  Naturally, I clobbered Bill.  We were too tired to finish the game, but he conceded anyway.

 

Actually had an early night to bed.

 

 

19 August (Friday)

 

A day to spend trying to sort out what was happening with the house.  After a late rising, eggs for breakfast and a large mug of coffee, as usual, and taking Mystique out to do her thing, we decided to start at the south end and work our way up.  First stop was the camera store in downtown Ketchikan, to pick up the 8x10s we had ordered of our portraits.  They came out beautiful; thankfully, we had ordered three of each at Ann’s request, leaving her one for her new office, 1 each for me to take back to Australia with me, and the rest for the new house.

 

From there, it was back to Salmon Landing to bring Gary up to date and make sure out pair of ipods were ordered in time for me to take mine back.  Gary only had a few minutes to spare – he was finally psyching himself up to get ready for the open water swim on the 28th – 8 miles in the open ocean around the neighboring island.  Wanted to know if Bill would join the race; he wisely declined, but said he would try next year if I would be his kayak companion for him.  Does he think I was born yesterday or something?  Must be something, as he spent some time convincing me I could do it.

 

After a brief stop back at the flat for lunch, we headed past the post office to check our PO Box, and then on to Victorson Court to see how that was proceeding – nothing so far as we could see.  We headed back into town via Rainforest Crafts, a scrapbook store we had noticed on our way up, the bank, Sears to order appliances (we were advised to wait one day for the 10% off sale) and finally Hometown Furnishings to tell hem hopefully the floor could start to be laid on Monday, but we would call.

 

It was just past 5, but the long days were catching up to us, so we headed back to the flat for another salmon burrito dinner (yum!), laundry, and more Due South until we both started nodding off.

 

 

20 August (Saturday)

 

Another gully washer as the locals say around here.  A busy day regardless, because of the Sears sale and we were worried that there would be crowds of people at it.  Well, this is Ketchikan.  They came in a steady stream all day, but we had virtually no waiting at all when we went in to order the chairs and the washer & dryer. 

 

Having done that with Bill & Ann’s brand new Sears card (thus earning a further 10% off from the 10% off sale), we grabbed a sandwich and drink and headed out to picnic.

 

They were working on the road (only one road, folks) north of town so we were faced with some delays, but since we weren’t in any particular hurry, it was just fine.  A little down time and I snoozed unashamedly at times.  So the normally 12 minute journey took twice as long, probably more.  We weren’t looking at the time.

 

On the way, we pulled into Victorson Court to see how the place was going and there was no visible signs of the place being cleaned up ready for our move in on Monday…. Not a great sign.

 

We pulled in at Settler’s Cove which looks amazingly untouched although there are campsites everywhere, screened from each other by the rainforest.  Someone should tell people that pit toilets are fine, but you still need to wash your hands afterwards!  Note to self: Thank Barbara for the wet face washer in the plastic bag idea.

 

The three of us (Bill, Mystique and myself) had lunch together in the quiet green there, where the drizzling rain could hardly be felt at that time because of the canopy above.  Everything filters through green.  It’s amazing.


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After lunch we wandered down the trail towards Lunch Falls.  There are rest stops and seats to sit and admire the view all along the trail, so I took photos (of course).  Of the beach, of fishermen… and that’s where I stopped for a while because I thought they were crazy to throw out in a river mouth full of weeds


– only it wasn’t weeds, it was fish!  Hundreds of fins breaking the water, and slippery bodies and fish jumping.  I missed all the jumping in the photos, but watched in the drizzling rain, entertained and horrified…. This was their final journey and they were determined to make it.

 

A bit further on, a bridge over the falls afforded us an amazing view of their struggle, especially against the water that was powering down after the rain.  Bad timing for their struggles.  I wonder if this will affect the numbers of salmon in years to come.

 

Reluctantly we left our watch.  Other people were coming up the trail wanting to view it as well.

 

We took Mystique back to the flat and went off to the Swim Centre.  It’s an A frame building held up by huge logs, with two pools – a small one and a lap pool.  Thankfully, for me, they divide the lap pool up into shallow end and deep end during free swimming time so I was able to get back into the rhythm of my walking and exercising in the pool and the occasional swimming lap.  The chlorine is quite strong so I am going to probably need goggles if we do this everyday…  but it was pleasant and felt good to be back in the pool again.

 

We came back to the flat and worked at printing off all the photos we have been accumulating.  Sooner or later we are going to have to bite the bullet and actually work on the scrapbooks…. Preferably more than one week before I go, but we have days that are long and absolutely packed already.

 

So many photos I take… my goodness, if these were on a SLR, we’ve have to consider taking out shares in Kodak….

 

We actually left it all and headed back to the Plaza for a free Sounds of Summer Concert and it was a lot of fun.  We got there in time to hear Don who had a very smooth sound and was singing science fiction folk which was fun.  Then came the Celtic Plaides who came with costume – hats and tartan and fun little songs and music.  A bit of a problem with some of the meter though at times – one got the feeling that they weren’t too used to working together – but they were all talented and entertaining.  The singer especially was great and when they added an extra male voice for the herring song, it was really good.  Then there was Paddy’s Leather Britches which is the one we had come to hear which promised Scottish folk rock and started off with a Mexican song about Ramon…  they made up for it later with lots of great music.  The last of the night was a rock n roll bad with – amazingly enough – members of the other groups in it….

 

Well, this was a lot of fun for me and deadly for Bill whose headache has not gotten any better for days now.  They were very good and we sang along and our feet kept moving.  Next thing I knew I was being asked by an Amerind  a little bit older than myself and we danced every alternative song – recovering between.  A gentleman who just wanted to dance because the music took him back.  And we matched each other for the dancing so that was great.

 

Unfortunately, Bill headache got a lot worse with the level of sound for the last group and we went home to bed.

 

 

August 21 (Sunday)

 

Another quiet day for us so far.  We have been working on packing up some mail, putting pictures in frames and catching the dog when she decided she was taking a walk around the neighbourhood, standing outside our car waiting to go somewhere.  Didn’t have the heart to tell her that today we go swimming without her, and do the washing and drying (and its hard to get things dry in this kind of weather.  The t shirts we washed two days ago are still damp and we have them hanging everywhere about the place.  But we needed to at least get the towels washed and dried so that we can use them for swimming today. 

 

We did some more ordering of furniture on line which means none of it will be here by the time I leave.  Sigh.  So much for having a lovely picture perfect home for Ann and Bill to move into.

 

Went out to Ward Lake to have some afternoon tea.  We forgot to have lunch so we ended up getting some chicken and cookies and sat at a picnic table, watching the salmon jump in the lake.  If there had been no breeze it


would have been a mirror lake set in the pine tree dressed mountains.  There is an incredible nature walk through the rainforest and we took our time.  They have three log cabin-style picnic areas made of huge logs with proper fireplaces made of slate…

 

After eating, we headed out on the nature trail to circumvent Ward Lake.  Mystique explored all the new and wonderful smells while we spent our time watching the salmon head upstream to spawn.  The trail is a fairly easy 2 kilometres, but we took our time (and lots of photos),

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After returning to the car and seeing we still had daylight and a reasonably clear early evening, Bill suggested we continue on up Revilla Road to Brown Mountain.  Being afraid of heights I was a bit sceptical at the hour of the day and doing this drive, but off we went.  It seemed like a lot further, but in reality it was less than 10 miles to the end of the road, with me griping the armrest all the way on the narrow, winding, steep dirt road when the edge was on my side of the vehicle.  Fortunately, Bill was familiar with the road, and we made it to the top safely.  However, with the other nearby mountains, it was getting too dark to see much of anything, so we only dallied for a moment before heading back down.

 

Arrived back at the flat after 9 pm.  Scrapbooking.  Time to start the dirty deed.  Bill took to the floor to start slicing the photos out of the paper, and I did layout of the pages.  Once we got started and had the music going on the computer, we just worked away.  Before we knew it, it was after 1 am.  Only a few pages down – two of each, of course! – but a great start to what I know is going to be a mammoth undertaking.

 

 

22 August (Monday)

 

We arose early this morning and had a quick breakfast of eggs: the new house was to close!  We were still a bit mystified how the previous owners planned to be out by today, but no worries, not our problem.  Turns out it is our problem.  Ann called before we get started to tell us the house closing is delayed for a few days.  Grrr.  I leave in a week and a half and we need to get this house started.

 

Oh well. Plan B it is.  After doing a couple of scrapbook pages, we head off to Tongass Trading Company, the second furniture store we needed to visit.  Not having been overly impressed with Hometown Furnishing (the place just didn’t feel right); Tongass was a welcome change.  Friendly staff, better selection, and better prices.  We spent over an hour browsing with the saleslady, and by the time we had finished, we had picked out a sofa for the lounge (that reclines!), a reclining easy chair for Ann’s room, a Queen Anne’s chair for my room, and an end table for the lounge also.

 

Feeling quite satisfied with ourselves, we checked our PO Box, then headed off to the swim centre for an afternoon swim.  I swear: the water feels colder each and every time we go here!  Afterwards, we return to the flat for more scrapbooking and give attention to Mystique.


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By late afternoon, we were ready for a break, and Mystique wanted some exercise.  So, going past Safeway for chicken to eat, we headed back to Totem Bight to have tea and casually re-inspect the totem poles.  Although nothing had changed from our previous visit, we had plenty of time this visit and Bill and I spent a fair bit of time picking out the symbols and the animals they represented.  These carvings will never cease to fascinate us.

 

Finally, the temperature starts to drop, so we headed back for the flat and more scrapbooking.  It is always a lot of fun, but making two of everything is a bit time-consuming; it helps considerably that Bill is cutting up all the photos, and when he gets far enough ahead, takes over the duplicate pages for a while.  We aren’t even to out flight to Anchorage yet – beginning to wonder if this book will


become two volumes and surpass the size of our pair of Australia volumes from earlier this year.  Seeing the stack of printing photos, we had best make plans to find a second set of scrapbooks.

 

Another late night, working past midnight, scrapbooking, listening to music, and hitting the bottle (of lemonade!)

 

 

23 August (Tuesday)

 

We were up by 8 AM, Mystique wanting to go outside, which left us with a good excuse to get an early start on scrapbooking.  Completed a few more pages over our usual coffee and egg breakfast, before heading out to do the day’s errands.  We started out at Salmon Landing to check in with Gary, as well as admire some of the incredible quilts on display at one of the shops.  Beautiful, and would be lovely in the new house, but terribly expensive.  Took some photos of them and maybe I’ll make one of the designs myself one day.

 

We then continued on south to Saxman, the other totem pole gathering in the Ketchikan area.  We hoped to find out when the native dinner and dance was scheduled, but they don’t appear to be doing those anymore.  We did browse the gift shop for a bit with Mystique (no dog treats this time, but plenty of kids for her to charm) and found lots of nice stuff, but again, prices too high; although we did buy a lovely pair of t-shirts.  Our excuse to put off the laundry for another day!

 

Several cruise ships were obviously in, as the totem pole area was literally packed with tourists, so we snapped a few quick photos, and went on our way back into town.  Seeing as we actually had some time today, we went by the Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles in the State Office Building downtown, where Bill took his Alaska State Driver’s Exam and had his photo snapped… and had his Alaska Driver’s License ten minutes later.  Actually, we were there considerably longer, as there weren’t any other customers, and both ladies working there were named Linda.  We got to chatting, their first question of course being if we actually were twins.  I showed off my New South Wales driver’s license, and we talked for quite some time about Australia and Bill’s and my travels in Alaska – especially when the twins joined the Polar Bear Club in Barrow (which they corrected us – it is pronounced ‘Brrrrow”).

 

We then headed to Talbot’s Building Supply, where I picked out the colours for the house and had them mixed.  Positive thinking – we’re going to need this paint in the next two to three days!

 

We returned to the flat for some late lunch and more scrapbooking.  Completed several pages before Mystique made it clear she wanted a good walk and more attention. 

 

Seeing we had plenty of daylight left, we decided to head back to Brown Mountain in broad daylight and take in the view.  In daylight, the ride wasn’t quite so terrifying, but Bill took it slow anyway.  By the time we reached the end of the road, cloud cover had moved in – so we couldn’t see all that far, but the views were still quite spectacular.  Took just a few photos, including using the car as a tripod to get a shot of Mystique wrapped around the legs of the twins


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After taking in all the sights and opting not to take a hike to the top of the hill (neither of our knees would have appreciated that today), we headed back down and then took the other branch (Revilla Road) to Lake Harriett Hunt.  Although it was fairly level, it was still quite twisty and very very bumpy – not very well maintained.  We arrived at the lake as twilight was swiftly approaching, and Mystique went into overdrive – there was a black lab and a German shepherd running loose – chasing sticks into the lake.  She wanted so very badly to join in the fun, but we only had our lowly rental car, and no towels to wipe her off with.  We did talk for a while to the dogs’ owners, and were told there wasn’t much in the way of an obedience school in Ketchikan, but there was a woman who did it privately.  Anyway, we continued on to talk about our dogs until it


became quite dark, and it was time to head back.

 

Lake Harriett Hunt is quite secluded, fairly far off the beaten track, and definitely some place to come back and explore later.  Even in twilight, you could tell the water is crystal clear, and on the right day, would probably mirror the surrounding mountains.  There were what looked like to be a canoe rental of some kind set up, obviously not open, and, of course, the fish were jumping.

 

On our way back to the flat, we stopped at Safeway to get some more supplies, as well as a salad for dinner.  Bill had brought along my now quite deflated dolphin, and the florist cheerfully refilled it for us.  My green dolphin flies again!

 


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The rest of the night was spent scrapbooking and listening to music, while Mystique, after a long day, hit the bottle (lemonade) for a while, then was out like a light.  And we went to bed again after midnight.


 

24 August (Wednesday)

 

We got up early as today would be the big day – the house was closing.  So, we had a quick breakfast and then the phone rang.  It was Rocky from the mortgage company; the house was not closing today – the wife’s lawyer wanted some changes to the paperwork, so we needed to sit tight.  This was not the news we wanted to hear – I leave in a week, and so far I’ve gotten a lot of things set up, but no actual work done on the house itself.

 

So, we grumbled and groused a bit, then went back to our scrapbooking.  Always a way to cheer up, especially on such a rainy, gloomy day.  We spent a couple of hours on the scrapbooks, then headed off for the swim centre for an hour’s swim.

 

After enjoying ourselves in the water for an hour or so, we came out of the building to be greeted by a wonderful, sunny, Ketchikan afternoon with stunning clouds.  Had to get some photos of those as Bill drove around trying to find better vantage points, including accidentally backing up on a one way street.  One of the locals kindly let us know it was a one way street,  but it was too late – we were already out to the downhill street.

 

Back to the flat, for a dinner of salmon nachos (Bill’s idea for an alternative to burritos – quite good, but very messy), music, and scrapbooking.

 

Need I say we went to bed late again?

 

 

25 August (Thursday)

 

Today is the big day.  We actually awoke early and on time to the alarm clock; even skipped breakfast and simply opted for our normal giant mug of vanilla-flavoured coffee to down our morning sleep apnea pills, and rushed off to the mortgage office: the house is to finally close today!  This will give me one week to help Bill get everything set for Ann’s arrival before I return to Australia.

 

We were on time to meet Rocky at the mortgage office, who escorted us upstairs to the title office and a mountain of paperwork.  Ann’s power-of-attorney in hand, Bill started going through all the forms.  Meanwhile I’m wondering if one pen will do it – seeing that huge stack, and will his arthritis hold out to sign everything twice, as well as some legalese with each and every signature.  Fortunately, he was taking his time and actually reading everything, as he didn’t get too far before he discovered an error.

 

We tried to call Ann at her office to confirm the correction, but she was not available.  So, we all decided to come back together in a few hours, after Rocky updated things with Ann, and finish the signing process.  Disappointed, but undaunted we headed back to the flat and Mystique, determined to log time working on the scrapbooks while waiting for the rescheduled signing.

 

Lunch was toasted cheese sandwiches with honey mustard (Bill’s suggestion, and a damn good one) and onions (not so good).

 

As we were preparing to leave, Rocky rang; there was a hold-up on the signature of the spouse selling the house; we need to reschedule for Friday.  Grrrr.  Another day lost.  Since we have arranged to meet the satellite and the fencing people at the house tomorrow, everything will have to be rescheduled.  Bill is really bummed out at this point, anxious to get some start on the house whilst I am still here, and I don’t blame him.  Scrapbooking is fun, but we have serious work we need to get taken care of.

 

More fish burritos for dinner (they are seriously addicting!).  We are both emotionally drained from the day, so it is not a late night.

 

 

26 August (Friday)

 

We wake up to pouring rain.  I hope it’s not a premonition of how the day is going to go.  After another breakfast of eggs and the mug of coffee, we head back to the mortgage office.  The changes have been made, and the signing is completed.  Of course, I snap a photo so we can prove to Ann that the deed is finally done – they own a house in Ketchikan.  Rocky hopes to have the last signature by the spouse, who is in the hospital, and the paperwork turned into the title office by the time they close at 4 pm.  He says to check back later, and then we can get the keys from the realtor’s office.

 

We head back to the flat and a quick lunch, grab Mystique, and head for the house.  The satellite installer is already there and has confirmed we can get a good signal, although he wonders why we need a new dish when there already is one.  We explain that the owner is remaining on the island and is taking the dish with him.  We walk through the cable layout and the placement of the receivers; there will be a HD connection for both the lounge and my room, we already have the HD flat panels ordered for both of those rooms.

 

We have some time until the fencing people arrive, so we head across Tongass Highway to the North Shore Gardens.  We need to find a couple of trees to plant at the new one, one each for Ann, Bill, and me, to celebrate the new home and that we can see grow throughout my annual visits to Ketchikan.  We also find a host of rabbit statues (I know, I can only have one) to choose from for the house.  We decide on a pair of cherry trees, and will wait for Ann to decide when she comes up (will probably be a cherry tree, too, being one of her favourite things from Japan); Bill will plant them when he has all three.  Besides the trees, there is an amazing variety of flowering bushes, available in more colours than I would have imagined.  North Shore Gardens will definitely see plenty of business from us as we get the garden and other landscaping lined up in the spring.  I must find a guidebook on the local plants and flowers before I go back.

 

We head back to the house and meet Southeast Alaska Fencing Specialists, and do the layout for the dog fencing.  Fortunately, there is a doggie door out of the garage.

 

About this time, Rocky calls on the cell phone – the wife’s lawyer did not meet with her, and therefore she did not sign the paperwork.  The closing is delayed until Monday.

 

Yes, the rain was an ill omen.  We head back to the flat for a quiet dinner of salmon burritos and scrapbooking.  Wish it would have stayed quiet.  When we were about ready to knock off for the night, Bill went to take Mystique out back in the rain, while I wrapped up the page I was on.  All of a sudden, there’s this huge crash and dead silence out back.

 

I ran to the back door and looked outside… and then down.  Bill was sunk halfway into the porch with one leg underneath him, and the other twisted at an odd angle: the porch had rotted out underneath him and he had fallen through.  Mystique was nosing around, trying to figure out what was wrong.

 

It was obvious he wasn’t going to be able to pull himself up, so I had to brace myself and lift him up out of the hole – no mean feat considering he is quite a bit bigger than me.  I did manage to pull him out.  When we looked into the hole – we realized how lucky he was – he had been dangling over two stories of empty space!

 

I helped him inside and cleaned off the cuts on his legs, then he went into the shower to try and clean up some of the mess he was covered in.

 

 

27 August (Saturday)

 

We slept in, knowing that the house cannot close until Monday, and Bill probably needed to recover from his fall.  When we did finally get up, Chef Bill (I really could get used to this, you know!) made eggs again: he always offers me a choice, even though I give him the same answer every morning.  Bill is obviously in a lot of pain and requires assistance walking, although nothing appears broken; we already talked to Ann and she said to give it a few days if nothing appears to be broken.

 

Back to work on scrapbooks… and then the phone rings.  Apparently, the spouse has decided not to sell the house.  Didn’t know she could do this after everything was agreed to; but apparently, she can.  It seems we are back to square one and must start with finding a house in a few days.  We call the realtor; Bill E. is in Tacoma with his daughter, so one of the other staff members hurriedly starts to set up some viewings for us.  I leave in five days, and we may not even have a house!  Very strange, the way they do things here.

 

The realtor calls back as we are getting ready to leave to tell us to sit tight until Monday – he’s done some checking, and either the spouse signs, or the house defaults in days; what we were caught in was the lawyers getting too involved.

 

We need to get out of the flat for a while, and today there is open swimming, so we decide to head for the pool.    As we leave, we can see one of the barges with cargo coming into the port – and we are almost positive we can see the new car!  Finally, we can get rid of the tiny rental car soon! I have to drive as Bill can hardly get into the car, let alone drive a manual.  Thankfully, the pool is fairly empty today, so Bill can just ease along with me as I do my walking, slowly today, as he can hardly keep up.

 

Our daily trip to our Post Office box yields a pleasant surprise – our special t-shirts have arrived!  We had a pair of t-shirts with our photo on it made it – wearing the “The Twins – Friends Forever’ t-shirts Ann had made of us in Barrow – as we joined the Polar Bear Club.  The caption reads (complete with typo): “In Barrow, Alaska, Best Friends don’t let Best Friends swim in the Artic Ocean alone”.  These t-shirts are even better than the originals!  We love them!

 

We had planned for Bill to take me out to dinner the night before I leave, but seeing that we might be scrambling at the new house, we decide to go tonight instead.  He had already promised to take me somewhere where I could go dancing, and as we hadn’t seen anyplace so far, we decided to try this place called “The Landing” that we had been by several times but never went into.  Wasn’t sure if I could dance here, but they did offer karaoke on Friday nights (damn it’s Saturday night!), so we figured it worth a try.

 

We went back to the flat to clean up for swimming and let Mystique out.  I should point out now that during the entire trip so far, we had gone around as twins, wearing the same t-shirts every single day.  We had set this up when Bill was visiting me earlier this year, when we bought pairs of several border collie, as well as Alaskan-themed, t-shirts.  Besides making us twins, it would save me from lugging a lot of clothes back and forth – he would have a lot of shirts here for me already.  As I have for him at home in Australia.  It certainly got people to scratching their heads, and others


laughed along with us… we had both agreed from day one it would be fun to play with everyone’s heads.  However, tonight, I decided to throw everyone for a loop, and wear the pretty blue dress I had asked Bill to pick up for me to save me bringing over any dresses.

AppleMark


Too bad we didn’t run into anyone we knew over dinner!

 

The Landing served an interesting mix of American, Chinese, and seafood.  We tried a few starters, and they were all delicious, especially the mushrooms.  Too bad we hadn’t checked before we ordered all the starters; when our meals arrived, they were huge servings.  No chance I will eat all this food!  I did make an honest effort though.  I have never had prime rib that tasted so good before – and it melted in my mouth – literally!  Bill had the seafood platter, which he said was just as good – he let me try a few things from his plate, and I’ll have to agree with him.

 

Before long, though, it was closing time, and no dance floor, so we headed back to the flat and more scrapbooking before heading to bed.

 

 

28 August (Sunday)

 

Mystique let us sleep in this morning.  We continued our scrapbooking over eggs and a cup of coffee for breakfast, as well as Bill getting some laundry done.  We thought a bit about going back to the pool today, but decided instead to try and find the Alaska Rainforest Experience that Rocky at the mortgage company had recommended to us the other day, mentioning that this Sunday was Ketchikan Resident’s Day.  We searched the phone book as well as the internet, and couldn’t come up with any address besides Herring Cove.  So, we headed south on Tongass Highway and hoped for the best in locating it.

 

As we headed south, I had to pull up for some amazing views of the Narrows.  The day is so bright and sunny, and you could see the islands in the distance with crystal clarity.  It was a picture-perfect day; I don’t think it has been this clear in Ketchikan since my arrival.

 

As we approached Herring Cove, there is only one side road, so I took it.  The road is not very well kept up – it certainly is not promising.  However, we round a bend – and there it is.  We head inside, where we’re informed the last tour of the day has just left, but they will try to reach them on the radio.  Turns out the group is still at the trailhead, and they’ll wait for us.  We quickly show our ‘local ID’ – our Safeway Cards – and pay $20 each rather than the usual $79.  Wow – what a discount!  Seeing how bad Bill is hobbling from his fall the other day, they immediately offered to take us to the trailhead on golf cart, and assured us that the entire walk is downhill with plenty of stops.

 

A short ride up a track met us up with the rest of our group – 4 other locals.  Everyone introduced themselves, and we headed out.

 

We are quickly surrounded by a vast array of green, thick with trees, moss, fungi – we are truly in an undisturbed rainforest.  The ground is spongy, little rivelets flow everywhere; the feel of this forest is incredible – and indescribable.  One of our group obviously has run a similar tour before, and quickly answered any questions our guide posed to us (although Blll doesn’t do a bad job, either!), and filled in beyond her question; she tried not to be annoyed.

 


AppleMark

As we admire a raven cawing at us up in a tree, our guide motioned for us all to be silent.  Not 20 metres away is a bear cub… and moments later, his mother comes into view.  We are all deadly quiet; the only noise being the shutters of everyone’s digital cameras.  Before long, a second cub and its mother come into view.  We all stand there in stunned silence, watching nature unfold in front of us, snapping photos.  A few minutes later our guide explained that bear sightings in the wild are extremely rare, and what we have witnessed is a once in a lifetime event.  There was only known to be one mother and cub in the area.  Simply amazing.

 

After we had all taken our photos, we move on; however, it seemed to anticlimactic now after the bear sightings.


 

We eventually left the forest onto a boardwalk through wetlands, which, earlier in the season, would provide spectacular view of native birds.  Instead, we are treated to salmon running to a local fish hatchery to spawn – apparently, they had escaped a few years before from a breeding program there.  There are so many salmon jumping it is impossible not to get a good photo!  Unfortunately, by now, the walk has taken its toll on Bill and he requires assistance to continue, so the rest of the group continues on and we catch up in a little while.  It wasn’t not too far to the reindeer enclosure, so Bill could sit down for a while, while the rest of us fed the reindeer greenery that had been set out for us.  Bill did manage to get a nice photo of me hand feeding one.


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After the reindeer, it was another short walk to a shed, where a local master carver is working on a totem pole.  It looked as if he had a long way to go, but he explained that he is actually almost finished, and the pole will be done in time for the pole raising one month from today, and encouraged us all


to return for it.  Pity I will be back in Australia by then.  From there, it was a short walk and a video of the old sawmill operation here at Herring Cove, and then back to the entrance/gift shop.  I help Bill over to the bench so he can sit while I go inside the gift shop, but we wind up being distracted by the scenery and I didn’t make it in before they locked the doors.

 

We talked to our tour guide a for a few minutes as she left, set the camera up to take a picture of us, then headed back into Ketchikan and the flat to Mystique, who is probably aching to go out by now.

 

More laundry, dinner of, you guessed it, salmon burritos, and scrapbooking.  We stayed up very late and get quite a few pages done and actually assemble the twin scrapbooks to the point where we have completed so far.  We have a lot done, but there is so much more to do, and with any luck, we assume ownership of the house tomorrow, which will be good, but put a definite crimp on our scrapbooking.

 

We head for bed very very late.

 

29 August (Monday)

 

We get up a little late, knowing that if there’s any word on the house, the phone will ring.  While Bill made breakfast, I snuck a picture of the neighbor’s house, which is host to a huge display or colourful bird houses.  When I return, I look out the window – and what do I see – a seaplane taking off – and I capture it on film!  Now I know this will be a good day – I have been trying to snap a photo of a sea plane taking off the entire trip – and not only do I manage that this morning, but a second one snuck into the frame as I was taking the photo.  Yes, it will be a good day.

 


AppleMark

 

We started working on our scrapbooks again over our eggs and the mandatory cup of coffee, and we don’t get too much done before the phone rang.  It’s Rocky from the mortgage company.  The spouse has decided to


sign; only a few words needed to be changed on some paperwork.  He hoped to get the paperwork into the title company today and get us the keys, but even if it isn’t, we could start working on the house this afternoon when Scotty gets home and can let us in.

 

Yes, it is going to be a good day.

 

We work some more on the scrapbooks, then head out to get everything lined up: calling Ray Garton to tell him he can start tomorrow, Tongass Furniture, Safeway, the hardware store, and other stops to pick up materials we’ll be needing.  Knowing that we won’t have time to do so again before I leave, we pay a last visit to Totem Bight.  This time the bookstore is open and I buy a book on native Alaskan flowers and plants, so I will be able to help Bill with gardening suggestions in the spring.

 

We also drove by the Subaru Dealership, where we had been told that the new car would be delivered.  We walked in and started making inquiries… and it was quickly obvious that no one knew what we were talking about.  The receptionist’s husband worked for Alaska Marine Lines, so she called him to see if our car could be located.  Meanwhile, the owner of the dealership, a pleasant man named Rob Skinner – who we quickly discovered lived two doors down from us in Victorson Court! – tried to sort things out for us.  First problem was we bought a Toyota, which they do not sell, and normally would not take a courtesy delivery on, but he would have been happy to if that was required.  He then proceeded to point out that we could have bought a car from him for just as much as Ann paid for the Toyota Rav4.  Bill tried to politely extricate himself with offending the man.  Ron remained pleasant, but pushy.

 

Finally, the receptionist found our car and said we could pick it up directly at the port.  So, we head back to Alaska Marine Lines; yes, they had our car, but we can’t get it until tomorrow.  They also had two containers of household goods they had planned to deliver to us tomorrow at 10 am.  Uh-oh – we were told it wouldn’t be delivered until Wednesday – and there was only supposed to be one container.  We are going to have to work very very quickly to make sure we have space to put everything!

 

We finally arrived at Victorson Court in late afternoon, and Scotty let Bill, Mystique, and I into the house.  The paperwork won’t be filed until morning, but he was happy to let us get started on our work.  Mystique is a very happy border collie with lots of space to run.

 

And we have our work cut out for us – all of the carpeting must be ripped up, and four rooms must be painted.  We decide to start in the upstairs master bedroom (Ann and Bill’s); I’m applied blue masking tape to the edging, and Bill ripped up carpet and the boards it’s attached to; Bill’s idea is to paint the room before Ray lays down the floor so that he doesn’t have to worry about getting paint on the new flooring.

 

It only took an hour or so to realize that Bill’s idea simply wasn’t going to work – the carpet was taking far longer to get up than we originally thought, so before long, we are both working on getting the carpet up and cutting into smaller pieces that we can actually roll up and get outside to be hauled off.

 

By 10 pm, we realize we have taken on a Herculean task – only the master bedroom is complete in 4 hours.  And we are both exhausted.  We decide to head back to the flat for some salmon burritos and work on the scrapbooks – which must be finished before I leave in 3 days.

 

Needless to say, we get to bed way too late… again.

 

 

30 August (Tuesday)

 

We got up early.  We are both very tired after so little sleep, but were anxious to get started.  Bill made a quick breakfast and I got a page together of the scrapbooks, and we’re off to the new house at 8.30am.  Ray arrives just after we do, and we let him know about the cargo containers being delivered shortly.  He sees Scotty still has stuff in what is to be Bill’s


AppleMark

room downstairs, shakes his head, and starts his work.  He did loan us

some handy tools to get the staples out of the floor quickly and easily, rather than one by one, which is how Bill had been pulling them out.

 

Bill and I moved downstairs to my room to start


pulling up carpet – I am determined to stay in this house one night before I leave.  Since my bed is in the cargo container, my room had to be done.

 

However, we don’t get very far, when someone’s yelling into the house, looking for us.  The household stuff had arrived, along with five young men to offload the truck.  Bill wound up out in the truck sorting out everything and telling the young men where to put everything, while I continued to work.  But I had to move to Ann’s room, as they won’t bring stuff into the house in areas where we are working, so everything going downstairs must go into my room,

 

By 1 pm, both cargo containers have been offloaded – and the house is full – very full; Bill is concerned where everything is going to go.  There certainly is a lot of stuff.

 

Ray finished Ann and Bill’s room, then headed off for the day as he has another job to finish, which was good for us in that we don’t really have another room ready for him yet.  He promised to bring his daughter back with him the next day to help with unloading.

 

We took a much-needed break and headed for Alaska Marine Lines, as well our PO Box.  When we arrived, Bill signed a piece of paperwork, and their brand new silver Toyota Rav 4 was brought around front.  Bill shocked me by handing me the keys and said he’ll follow me to the gas station so he could fill the tank up on the rental car before we return it.  I was very nervous, and can’t believe he gave me the keys, so I cautiously drove the half mile to the Safeway gas station, and then to Alaska Car Rental.  Bill was perfectly willing to let me keep on driving, but I insisted he take over.

 

After we returned to the house, Scotty arrived before too long and we told him we needed Bill’s room emptied downstairs; he was happy to oblige us.  This allowed us rip up the carpeting and then move everything out of my room into Bill’s room, and then we quickly got all the carpet up in my room.

 

Scotty also turned over the key to the house to Bill.  The house is now officially sold!

 

Very tired, we decided to stop early and head back to the flat for dinner and scrapbooking.  We discover on our return that the phone at the flat has been shut off, which means we can’t check email.   

 

No email, but we did accomplish a lot today.  Tired, but satisfied – we will certainly sleep well tonight.

 

31 August (Wednesday)

 

Up again early, a fast breakfast, and then threw everything in the car that can possibly fit – fortunately, the Rav4 has a lot more space than the little rental car we had.

 

We rushed to the house; Ray and his daughter are already there and are getting the last of the staples out of the floor in my room.  Bill and I headed upstairs to start cleaning kitchen cabinets and putting in shelf liner.  When Ray was ready to start on the flooring in my room, his daughter headed upstairs to help move boxes and unpack.  We discovered very quickly that she is a hard worker, and quickly has the boxes in Ann’s room transferred to Ann and Bill’s bedroom.  In the meantime, her friend called on her cell phone, and wanted to come out to help too.  So she and her father leave for a bit to get her friend.  With Ann’s room emptied, this allowed Bill to complete the carpet removal.

 

When Ray and his daughter returned with her friend, the two girls and I work on putting kitchen stuff away.  The friend is a bit unsure of all of this, until we turn emptying and putting away Ann’s kitchen goods into a game of ‘guess what this is used for’.  It was all grand fun.

 

Bill Elberson (Mr. Bill, the realtor) arrived in the middle of all this – he had a present for Bill and me for being so patient with everything – a gift certificate for the Ocean View Restaurant (our favourite eating place in Ketchikan), so that we could go out for our last evening.  He had a few minutes, so we rushed and changed into our new ‘The Twins Join the Polar


 AppleMark

Bear Club’ t-shirts and shorts, and everyone laughed hysterically as they realize The Twins have done it to them again.  Then we showed off our scrapbooks as far as they are completed, and everyone was amazed at what we have done


and seen in the short time I have been in Alaska, and all the effort that has obviously gone into creating the pair of matching scrapbooks.

 

Before Mr. Bill headed back to work, he took a couple of photos of the twins in their new t-shirts; Bill & I agree that we need to put one of these images on a t-shirt – an image within an image within an image.  But I have to leave that one up to Bill – not much time now.  Can hardly wait to see what he does with this one.

 

Playtime was quickly over, and it’s back to work; the girls and I in the kitchen, and Bill on the lounge room carpet.  By mid-afternoon, we had most of the kitchen unpacked, and it’s time for the girls to go home, as they start the new school year tomorrow.  They’re obviously dear friends, and have me take their photo together; we promised to print it out overnight and have prints for them in the morning.

 

We had planned to have dinner in our new home, but seeing as Mr. Bill gave us this gift certificate, we couldn’t let it go to waste.  We headed back to the flat for a shower and clean up before going out.  As my other new dress had arrived yesterday in the mail, I decided to wear that out for our last night.  The Ocean View wasn’t very busy, so we decided on some starters of nachos and shrimp, and had ordered the seafood fajitas again.


AppleMark

They were just as good as before, and the waitress even took a photo of us wearing sombreros.  It came out fantastic, and other than the Barrow photo, is one of my favourite photos of “The Twins” from this, my first Alaska trip.


 

We returned to the flat, for what would be my final visit.  Sigh.  We struggle to pack my bags (Allowance?  What luggage allowance?).  Some of my clothes will have to be left behind if all the gifts we didn’t ship back, my set of the scrapbooks, and everything else is going to make it back.  At least all of the clothes are finally dry, so we sorted out all the twins’ t-shirts, deciding which sets to go Australia, and which sets to reman in Alaska for my next visit.  The Twins will be back – in both hemispheres!

 

We headed back to the new house.  It’s very late – but we must finish the scrapbooks tonight.  We struggle away for a few hours, until almost 3 am. 


Not quite finished, but very close – I think we can finish it in the morning before we have to leave for the airport.

 

We are very very tired.  We don our matching nightshirts, and set up a photo of the two of us siting and falling asleep, just like the photo at the AppleMark 


 

 

Companion Animal Day at Glenbrook when Bill was in Australia earlier this year.

 

Way past bedtime.  My last night for now in Alaska, but at least it is in the new house, as promised.

 

 

September 1 (Thursday)

 

We’re up at 7.30, and I do get that meal in the new house – a breakfast of – you guessed it – eggs and our usual cup of coffee.  Somehow, it tastes even better than usual – probably because it is in the new house.

 

We made a mad dash to finish the scrapbooks – concentrating on getting mine assembled for the flight.  Ray arrives and starts work.  But, before long, it’s 9.30, and we have to leave for the airport soon.  At least my scrapbook is assembled, and Bill’s pages are all set up, but he’ll need to buy more empty sleeves.  No worries – we had to do the same thing with our scrapbooks earlier this year in Australia.

 

I say a quick good-bye to Ray and give him the 8 x 10s of the girls, and we load my luggage in the car.  2 overstuffed suitcases, and a creative interpretation of 1 carry-on plus purse – a small suitcase, my purse, and the Alaska carry-bag we had purchased crammed overflowing.  Reminds me of when Bill was leaving Australia – in exactly the same way, sans the purse.

 

We crammed a few extra things into my suitcase – and now we have 15 minutes to get the 11.15 am ferry.  We shut the doors… and then Bill asked about the car keys.  We had set them down in the car: we look everywhere, and it is obvious that the keys got grabbed on accident and shoved into my suitcase.  We do not have time to look for them… fortunately, there was a spare set of keys in the house that we quickly located.  We never did have time to make me a set of keys to the car or the house… and now they’re in my luggage somewhere.  No worries – I’ll find them when I get back home, and they’ll simply become the set I keep for myself.  Bill will just have to be careful not to lose his set before he has a chance to make a second pair.

 

We drove hurriedly to the ferry – and the gate is lowering as we enter the lot.  But the god of ferry masters was obviously smiling on us today – the gate re-opened to let us onto the ferry.  Five minutes later, we’re paying the fare on the other side and parking the car.  Bill left me and my luggage at the curb and goes to park the car (not a big deal at Ketchikan Airport – a 100 foot walk at the longest).  By the time he and Mystique make it into the terminal, I’m already checking in.  The Alaska Airline personal were very kind and ignore the overweight charge on the luggage (probably because they’re busy petting Mystique) and check everything all the way to Sydney, avoiding a possible hassle with United Airlines and their new lower luggage weight limits.

 

We headed upstairs to the gate area and sit down to order a little lunch.  I had a half hour or so before I needed to go through security, which should have been enough time, we figured.  We used the waiting time to sort out everything in my purse; just like when Bill was in Australia, we kept everything in my purse so as to have a harder time losing things like keys and wallets, and he carried it all the time to give my shoulders a break.  I’m going to miss that – especially when the purse gets full and heavy.  And we take one last photo of The Twins, in much the same way we had done at Sydney Airport only 4 months earlier.

 

Soon it was time for me to go through security as my plane has just landed.  Our food never arrived, but at least I’m on Alaska Air for the first leg, and they do serve food domestically, unlike United.  It was time to say goodbye


AppleMark

 

 

– I miss my family a lot, but it’s always hard when best friends have to say good-bye.  At least we know it will only be several months before we see each other again in Australia, and I’ll be back to Alaska next year with Graeme along, and the following year


with Joanne and Ian.

 

It took only a few minutes to get through, even with Bill calling after me to take my shoes off.  Scotty was there, and said goodbye too. Suddenly, I’m through, and as I came around, Mystique is standing on a chair with her sad eyes… I’ve had her for 6 months now.  She has rebounded pretty well with Dad in the past month, but I’m still Mom to her and she obviously didn’t want me to go.  The security person allows me to go the window and ‘pat’ her through the glass, so I can say goodbye to her and Bill one last time as my fight is called.  As I walk down the gangway, I looked back one last time, and Bill has lifted Mystique into his arms and they are both waving good-bye

 

[Susan]

As I settled in the seat of the plane, I almost expected the nice steward from Alaska Air to hand me the now usual card of “Your friend has been safely seen aboard”.  No Mystique.  It was a lonely trip back.

 

                            Alaska Air 62

                            departs Ketchikan 1-9-05 1252 PM

                            arrives Seattle 1-9-05 347 PM

 

Had Hungry Jacks at Seattle airport.  Everything was closing – food wise – when I arrived.  Ate, reading my Harry Potter book.  At least this will distract me.  The Alaska Air flight is always the best leg of a journey.

 

                            United 239

                            departs Seattle 1-9-05 700 PM

                            arrives San Francisco 1-9-05 857 PM

 

San Francisco is bloody big.  Unlike Seattle where you can hop train to the next terminal – and the trains never stop running – with San Francisco, if you are lucky, it’s a bus.  Down through a closet door with a barely readable sign and a concierge in a box who looked like he should be selling coffees and wasn’t doing a good job of redirecting people.  Down a staircase (they don’t care about disabled people), and then the tiniest room for a whole flight of people…. So there were people packed like sardines everywhere.  When the bus came, the concierge came down and directed those who had been waiting longest in the room onto the bus first, much to the annoyance of those standing outside.

 

Then is was to the terminal that looked like a giant bus shelter – obviously unfinished and tucked away under everything…. no airconditioning down there and more sardine impressions. I ended up going for a walk and finding the facilities before the flight, and buying some sweets as I could feel my blood sugars dropping.

 

Then, finally, an overcrowded plane again.  With the person next to me getting the aisle seat (and heaven knows how that happened when I had a special request in) and putting her bags under the seat instead of above. So no room for my feet, especially with the leg of the chair in front of me right in the middle of my leg space.

 

Only two meals served in 16 hours so I was very glad of the sweets and nuts I got using the last of my US dollards.  And the big bottle of water.

 

Harry Potter and I got through the flight somehow.  Don’t know how.  But it was so bad that everytime I looked at the time, it was just fifteen minutes from the last time and not an ounce of sleep.

 

And lots, and lots of pain from the cramped conditions.

 

And why doesn’t United have any of the planes that have their own individual screens?  Once again, had no idea what was on --- could only see about a quarter of the screen between all the heads.  These planes were not meant for short people like me.

 

                            United 863

                            departs San Francisco 1-9-05 1040 PM

                            arrives Sydney 3-9-05 610AM

 

September 3: (Saturday)

 

So looking forward to being home.  And when I finally got through the gates and out into the airport…. No GB.  None at all.  The car had broken down at Campsie and an hour later, he was there (I was still waiting for him, seeing him crashed, mangled, dying by then in my mind’s eye) – looking distract-ed and upset and worried that I might have left.  Never.  I’d always wait.

 

So, we managed the luggage unto the new airport train system, and headed off to Central, then to Campsie, and to find the car.  He had rung the NRMA when it happened and they gave him a time frame that they would be able to come out to… and he had managed to collect me and the luggage and get back by the hour.  We got there just minutes before the NRMA man who managed to get us back on the road safely again. Laddie and Fitz were waiting for me when I got home… And my own bed.  A quick visit with every rabbit and guinea pig, and it was definitely time for bed.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Bill for my wonderful holiday.

AppleMark

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