Monday, July 1, 2013

Airport Commentary

I'm not sure what day it is anymore but I think it's time for a little airport commentary. 

Norfolk -- our starting point. Its, well, it's Norfolk. Small, efficient, convenient. 

Dulles wasn't all that memorable but we spent quite a bit of unscheduled time there getting on and off our plane due to equipment malfunctions. They did give the kids free pretzels for waiting so patiently. 

Denver has good terminal train service and excellent directional signage. This comes in quite handy at a full sprint. The rest of it was a blur -- literally. 

Anchorage has some pretty cool displays you don't see elsewhere and a good fro-yo stand. They also have a fish shipping station  -- very unique. 

I think I slept walked through Seattle because the only thing I remember was being appalled at having to flush my own toilet. 

Chicago - after 9+ hours at this locale I'd have to rank this one best overall airport.  Crowded and cancelled flights, but if you've got to be stuck this is the place to be.  Good dining, nice displays, and by far the best bathrooms complete with automatic toilet seat covers. They even had a kids play area which may have saved the lives of my children...

The Last Leg -- Day 5

It's our last day in Alaska. I only woke up a few times and managed to sleep until 7. The rest of the family is out like a light and it's nearly 9. If I were in Anchorage I would have ventured out but the prospect of death by mosquito here in Denali means I'm trapped until everyone wakes up. 

9:10am -- I finally stirred around enough to wake the children. 

After a much more restful night & a good breakfast, we struck out for Denali park visitors center & trails. We had some good photo opportunities.

As Cayden was making her "scared face" her gum fell out of her mouth & into the floor. 

We finally had an opportunity to do some hiking along the trails. 

We didn't get to do any rock climbing, so we just faked it.

One final bus to the airport and we're headed for home. Farewell Denali. You truly are the crown jewel of the North. Thanks Aunt Mary, Jim & Susan for the opportunity. 

Massive Mosquitos -- Day 4

6:00am - no coffee, the whole world feels like its spinning and I am staring at this prison bus which is to be my home for the next 13 hours. Lord please protect the other passengers. 

After all the non-stop vehicular travel of the past few days, my equilibrium is way off.  Each time I stand still, I can't decide if we're having an earthquake or I'm going to pass out. I debated opting out of this adventure because blowing chunks on a packed out school bus is no one's idea of fun. But, I do hate to miss out on anything, so I sucked it up, located an emergency bag and boarded. I'm glad I went -- best cure for that spinning feeling -- just keep moving. 

Eric, knowing I'm not the best road tripper, had the foresight to grab a map & point out how far we were along the journey as we went. Genius!  We also met a guy from Emerald Isle that had driven his motorcycle all the way here. Crazy, but it made passing the time between animal sightings more enjoyable. 

Speaking of animal sightings -- moose, caribou, sheep, grizzlies and some of the most beautiful landscapes I've ever seen.  

The park road was gravel, very narrow and many times on the edge of a big drop (no guardrail).  As a kid, my dad would take me and a bunch of other kids skiing in the mountains of Virginia on a rickety old 4-H bus much like the one we rode today. I remember being so scared that we would drive off a cliff and die that I would force myself to go to sleep so I wouldn't feel it.  Same level of terror  today but no sleeping for fear I'd miss the scenery.  It was amazing, untouched and beautiful. 

We saw the top of mount McKinley. Pictures can't do justice to the vastness of that mountain. 

We stopped at a lodge in the park for lunch where we also learned to pan for gold. 

I believe I made reference to Ocracoke sized Mosquitos in an earlier post. Ocracoke ain't got nothing on this place!  I was afraid the mosquitos would carry my kids off like some bird of prey.  We tried to get some photos, but no one could stand still very long. 

Our guide told us two stories about them. One which resulted in someone being air lifted out of the park due to the unbelievable amount of mosquito bites. The other in which a man was literally driven crazy by the things. I believe them both. I am a coastal NC girl that lives in a swamp and I have never seen anything like this in my life!

After dinner we even caught what was as close as you'll get to an Alaskan sunset this time of year. 

All in all, it was a good day. One of those condor mosquitos has made its way into our cabinlet. I'm off to bludgeon the thing to death so we can get some sleep! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Alaska By Train -- Day 3

Still not much luck in the sleeping department. I did decide to get up during the "dark" hours & take a peek. Turns out its more like dusk. Today's adventure includes a train ride from Anchorage to Denali.

 Let me just say that train rides are much preferable for us grasshopper-legged individuals. The girls enjoyed exploring every inch of the train. 

Inside and out!

My train advice:  you do not want to be using the facilities when the train hits a bumpy section of track -- just saying. 

Our accommodations for the next two days -- Denali Cabins. Or as I like to call it "Home Sweet Cabinlet."

We checked in & ventured to Prospector's Pizza in town where Eric grew horns. Everybody knows he's grumpy when he's tired. (Really, he was fantastic -- sleep deprivation and all). 

It hasn't rained in here in over a month, but of course as were hiking back to our shuttle stop the prayers of Alaskans everywhere were answered. 

Gotta meet a bus at 6am sans coffee so I'd better give this sleeping thing another try...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Earthquake in Alaska -- Day 2

Turns out constant daylight will mess with your internal clock. I typically rise with the sun, but when it doesn't really ever go down...

I debated going for a run, but the size of the wildlife mounted on all the walls is rather terrifying and the prospect of running into a live one, even more so.  Instead I waited until I was sure there would be coffee in the hotel lobby, got up & took a quick look around outside. Having grown up on the coast I've seen plenty of fishing but never fly fishing. Other than the Ocracoke sized mosquitos, it was serene. 

When everyone else got up, we took a stroll & could see the salmon swimming upstream. This guy hooked a huge one. 

We walked into town & took a trolley tour of the city. 
It was here that we learned quite a but about the great Alaskan earthquake in the '60's. It was at the movie afterward that we learned we'd had a small earthquake this morning. Crazy!

We got in a little practice for dog sledding   Complete with the whipping & mush-ing.  
We saw that Alaskans dock their planes the way Currituckians dock their boats. 
We paused for a few photo opportunities. 

And we tried to get our bodies on schedule with a nap. I'm a horrible napper, so this lasted about 15 minutes. Then Ashton & I decided to conquer that running trail, wildlife or not. Of course this meant there would be no running. I think running might be my equivalent of a nap -- and I REALLY needed one. 

Eric & Cayden caught up to us later and we looped back around to show them the sights. The "sights" included lots of beaver dams, bridges, one plover, some random tracks, a guy bird bathing in the river, someone sleeping on a park bench and the most massive dandelions you have ever seen. 

We had dinner at the Bridge restaurant which had a great view of all the fly fishing. 

Then we went for a hike down to the inlet. 

And tonight, on our 15th wedding anniversary we are falling asleep to the magical sounds of our sleep-deprived children fighting like two cats in a sack over where the dividing line in the bed is. Someone please pray we all survive...

I think I'd better get some rest. Oh wait, the sun's still up...

Almost Naked Alaskan Adventure - Day 1

So, if you know me at all, you know I HATE being cold. So what on earth was I thinking taking a trip to Alaska?  Well, 2 things:
1.  It's not that cold in late June
2.  My husband's family planned the trip in honor of a very special aunt that passed away last year. 

Thus, here I am. And this, ladies & gentlemen, is my trip journal. Follow along if you will. 

3:00am:  why am I awake?  
4:00am:  why am I still awake?
5:00am:  go to sleep!
5:45am:  forget it, time to get the day started. 

Fast forward several hours and we have witnessed Cayden's first flying experience. 

We made sure she knew how to use the barf bags -- just in case.  She loved the flying. She narrated every takeoff as though it were a NASCAR race. She hated the waiting in airports. Eric would repeatedly have to race her down hallways. 

Ashton, of course loved it and probably has already exceeded the storage limit on her camera. 

Me?  Well, with legs like a grasshopper and a torso like a garden gnome, I don't fit the seats too well. And with the lack of sleep I've already documented, I'm sure I was less than pleasant. Poor Eric did well as trip leader, entertainment committee & peace maker.  I feel like I've been stuffed in a suitcase & manhandled by those baggage handlers all day!

The trip was well planned with plenty of layover time for stretching & making connections. Insert chaos -- Something went wrong with the baggage loader on our plane in Dulles. The bags had to come off, something had to be disconnected to keep us from catching fire, the bags had to be re-loaded & we had to get a waiver from the FAA to fly. (Still, better than catching fire)! What should have been a 3 hour layover in Denver evaporated into a 5 minute panicked sprint through the airport.  We made it just before the doors closed but I was certain our clothes wouldn't. This was about to be our "Naked Alaskan Adventure!"  Miracle of miracles, our bags magically appeared on the luggage carousel when we arrived in Anchorage. 

The in flight scenery was beautiful coming in. 

We've already seen Polar bears. 

And guess what else?  The sun doesn't set until after midnight & rises around 4am. Weird!  Also a bit annoying for someone who uses the sun as a cue for when it's time to rise & shine. Coffee anyone?  See you tomorrow!

Anniversary XV

June 27, 1998
If our marriage were a person, it would be halfway through high school and eligible for a learner's permit this year! Truth be told, our relationship has kind followed the pattern of human development.  From pure ignorant bliss, to just plain ignorance, to a stage of tentative competence and even, like an annoying teen, thinking we have it all figured out.

Just like an infant, we started out in awe of this marriage thing.

Such kids
Life was perfect and we were on cloud nine -- for about a week.  We quickly discovered that married life has its discomforts as well and we (ok more like "I")  became prone to temper tantrums, terrible communication and drastic behavior. "How drastic," you ask?  Let me assure you that I have a flair for the dramatic that manifested itself on many more than one occasion.  Like the time I stormed out of the apartment and had all my hair cut off to make a point -- not exactly sure what that point was, but looking back at the pictures I am certain it was a horrible idea.
It really made it hard to tell us apart -- not my best look.
Or the time I bagged up all of Eric's belongings and pitched them down the stairs and into the front yard.  Of course, he followed suit by chucking all of my stuff out -- sans bags -- what a pointless mess.  I can't imagine what our neighbors thought.  There were lots of tears and lots of the silent treatment, but somehow we progressed on through a series of "growth moments" (as a friend of mine likes to call them) and matured -- slightly.  Maybe it was the addition of the kiddos or just mellowing over time...
Yes, I was completely drunk and totally exhausted and again -- terrible hair choice.
All of the, now meaningless arguments aside, I'm truly thankful for that thoughtful, well planned, strategic man of mine.  He learned pretty early on that we wouldn't make it if we weren't intentional about nurturing and feeding our relationship.  So, here are 15 of his best ideas:
1.  He started a tradition of annual anniversary getaways that we take turns planning.  (Took me five years to figure that out, but I take my turn now). 
Celebrating 10 years on the Pacific -- He planned that one!
2.  He instituted a monthly date night that he protects like some sort of rabid beast.  
Ok, not a date night photo, but I do love this picture of us.
3.  We have a weekly lunch date where we meet halfway between our offices and picnic in the car.  
Cheap date, but its nice having an uninterrupted conversation.
4.  We have Sunday evening movie/Hulu nights. 
5.  He prioritizes time with our kids.  
But he won't stab a worm...  ;)
6.  He creates amazing experiences for me.

7.  He cooks for me.
But only on special occassions, sideways and its never Hamburger Helper (he knows I hate that stuff)!
8.  He gets plenty of rest.
So this one sometimes annoys me, but it does give me plenty of free time!
9.  He is an adventerous Dad.
Though sometimes I question his judgement -- Hurricane Walks are dangerous!
10.  He doesn't take himself too seriously.
Hot mess right there...
11.  He gives me space to do things I enjoy.

And sometimes even surprises me with a visit.
12.  He includes me in his hobbies. 
Even though I'm bad at it and make too much noise.
13.  He leads us spiritually.
14.  He is honest with me, even when it hurts.
15.  He tells me I'm beautiful....a lot.

What's my point?  Well, its certainly not that I married a saint (though I think he's pretty close).  Its that, left to my own devices, I am a suck-o wife.  He makes me a better one.  I hate systems and structure, but we need them (especially in this stage of life) and I'm grateful that he's put so many in place.  I think we would really have to actually try in order to fail.  The point is, relationships are just like humans -- we need to be fed, nurtured, sheltered, loved, taught -- and that doesn't just happen.  Without constant tending and effort, we are destined to fail.  Thanks honey, for not being willing to let us fail and for investing your heart and soul into us.  Thanks for making me a better version of myself.  I love you.  Happy fifteen.