Tuesday, July 10, 2018
At 07:30, my day began naturally (i.e. sans alarm clock). Levi was still sleeping, but I was able to successfully pack my bags quietly. Leaving the room with my key, I carried my journal with me, but unlike yesterday’s lodge, there was no bench for me to sit on while journaling. Thus, I instead just sat on the floor and wrote on. However, it was not exactly a pleasant time writing, as I was itching on several places of my body. Likely, the hike or outdoors time yesterday provided opportunities for mosquitoes to attack me. Though I know I should just leave the itchy areas alone, it is so challenging!
Mom, Dad, Ken, and Erica were all up after a while. We all went for breakfast at the North Fork restaurant, in the main lodge area. (I made a joke about how we are a long way from Nebraska, since Norfolk, NE is pronounced “Nor-fork” by the locals.) Breakfast was a very tasty blueberry-streusel French toast. Although I haven’t been 100% adventurous on my food choices this vacation, I am batting pretty well with food selections that I have not eaten before. During the time that we ate, conversations included homes and home improvement, the ideals of adaptation to new places, and talking about photos (in several different regards). There are no further-specific details that are really noteworthy.
As we left, the others (i.e. Casey, Brent, Molly, Brandon, and Levi) were just getting their food on the other side of a booth that we couldn’t see from our table. While they ate, my breakfast party returned to their respective rooms to finish packing and prepare to check out. Obviously, that also meant grabbing our bags. When we returned to the main lodge to just hang out, Ken was doing some business-related work, Erica and Dad were just chilling, and Mom and I were shooting the breeze. Eventually, the others converged on the community area of the main lodge, and we got a large game of “Deer In The Headlights” going.
The “Deer In The Headlights” game has a standard deck of cards and three specialized dice: the symbols on the dice include the rank of each card in the deck, a car, a running deer, and a deer-in-the-headlights. The goal of the game is to run out of cards in your hand. Based on your roll, you would either discard cards of shown ranks, give cards of shown ranks to someone else, lose your turn, or hand someone else a lose-a-turn. There was also the “Near-Autoloss” when rolling three deer-in-headlights: picking up the whole discard pile! I got very lucky in most of the hands that I played, and both Mom and Erica at some point got the triple-headlights late in the play.
After we played a few games, Mom and a few others went to the 20320 to get some chips to go. Since I had a big breakfast and still have snacks leftover from the plane flight over here, I don’t need to get additional food from the restaurants here. I saw some interesting facts about Denali when we were walking between the lodge and the restaurant. It took a while to get those chips, but thankfully it was in time to get on our bus.
Brad was our driver, from Palmer, Alaska. The bus took off at 14:14 (nice timing), and Brad did a little bit of exposition along the way. However, I think he wanted to stay quiet during most of the drive, knowing that some of us were probably talked-out after the last few days of tours. I wouldn’t have minded hearing more, but I understand the oversaturation of others. We started going south in the same direction as Talkeetna from yesterday, but obviously did not take the Talkeetna spur road like we did yesterday. Shortly after we passed the spur road, however, the ignominious orange colour appeared. Indeed, road construction was at hand, and it required the following of a pilot car!
Thankfully, we were not slowed down horrendously by this construction zone, and traffic wasn’t bad around these parts anyway. The weather was not pleasant, as it rained on and off in the area. As the bus continued, the scenery started to look familiar, because we eventually paralleled the train ride that we had taken on Saturday. This includes the sled dog camp, Wasilla, and some of the other landforms that I didn’t mention in my Saturday journal, but may have photographed anyway. Shortly after getting through Wasilla and the seeming stops every third of a mile for a red light, Alaska-3 veered off one way as the bus headed onto Alaska-1. I took a few pictures along the way, but wanted to get some journaling in to cut the deficit that was rapidly growing. I made somewhat of a dent! Yay!
At 17:00 or so, the bus rolled into downtown Anchorage, and at 17:05, it pulled up to the Captain Cook Hotel. Our rooms were on the 8th floor of the 3rd tower, and we headed up the quick elevators and unloaded our items. There’s less to worry about packing or unpacking, since tomorrow is Getaway Day! The down elevator was then packed full, but I got silly and jumped on the bellhop’s cart to save space. (Mom got a photo of that, but I’m waiting on seeing it developed on my family’s Google group!)
Eventually, we were going to meet up with Brent’s cousins and have dinner at Simon & Seafort’s. We went off a little while in downtown Anchorage on our own, first. We stopped by a convenience store first (because I think someone needed some type of OTC med, if I recall correctly). Then, walking along Fifth Street, we found KOBUK, which was a tea store, a gift shop, and a donut shop. The herbal-tea aroma was very strong, and it turns out that it was their samovar tea. We were invited to sample it, and WOW, it hit the spot! I decided to buy a bag of it, along with an infuser that I had not previously owned!
There were a few more gift shops that we entered for window-shopping. One was the Polar Bear Gifts, which was an outlet store of various Alaska-themed merchandise. Then, heading west one block and south a block, we found Once In A Blue Moose, and nothing really stood out there either. On our way, we saw another sign with arrows pointing to different cities, as well as the chamber of commerce and an art gallery. In that art gallery, they recommended looking up the story “Black bear in downtown Anchorage,” because some of our family wondered about wildlife sightings within the city itself!
One we got back to Captain Cook, I attempted to redo my bags, since I must condense down to 2 bags before getting on the plane. Currently, I have 3 bags: the backpack, the duffel, and the tote. I only partially succeeded in this mission. Then, heading downstairs, we met up with Brent’s cousins. However, I did not record their names (bad Noah; bad Noah!!) We walked around the downtown area. Dad and the uncle and I talked about engineering, new engineers, and some of their ideals that are not ideal. We all seemed to agree that soft skills are not innate and sometimes will drag down otherwise-strong engineers and scientists, because communication is paramount.
We then walked to Simon & Seafort’s, and our reservation at 20:15 was locked in. As we waited in line, the rendezvous that I had set up worked out: “AlaskaWildcat” (Dale [redacted]) appeared with his wife! A few days ago, after spotting the moose, I posted on the WildcatReport forums since I had read many of his posts. Therefore, we arranged to meet up for at least a short period of time. He graduated from NU a long time ago and moved to Alaska. He even gave me a purple Alaska hat for the occasion, of which I was very grateful! It’s nice to have connections to other places and people through sports—this has been one of the biggest impetuses (impeti?) toward me being in a more social world!
We got in and sat at a long table in a corner. Obviously, with 14 people at the table, there was a lot going on, and I think that I was starting to get a little overwhelmed by the end of vacation and the looming things when I returned. I ended up eating a tasty rockfish dinner, and enjoyed some poke and bread before dinner started. I was sitting away from Brent’s cousins (by circumstance only, not intentionally), so I didn’t get much chance to interact with them. That’s okay—they should probably focus on Casey, Mom, and Dad! The dinner lasted a long time (no surprise there), but by the time we left, it was still “light” outside. We didn’t leave until after 23:00. Yikes!
Upon returning to the hotel, I decided that I would try to sleep, even though I would only get about 4 hours. So I successfully packed my bags, including the checked bag that they would pick up at 03:00 tomorrow morning. Closing the blinds, I hit the hay at 23:50, although I don’t know if Levi attempted to sleep or not. Out of my hands!
Wednesday, July 11
At 03:40, my phone’s alarm blared and I got up, feeling sufficiently rested. The only bag that I had at this point was my big backpack, and it was already packed. My nightwear was also what I would wear on the plane flights today, so it sufficed to head down to the lobby and wait for the rest of the family as well as the airport shuttle. Levi and I were the first of our party downstairs, and soon thereafter, the other “younguns” came down, with the box of donuts that they had bought yesterday. At 04:00, the bus had arrived, and we got on after checking in with the driver. It was shpritzing rain.
As we rode to the airport, I was enjoying seeing the scenery amidst the clouds and the “sunrise” that we wouldn’t be able to see. Somehow, Levi and I got into a conversation about the nine character alignments (chaotic/neutral/lawful by evil/neutral/good), giving examples and classifying ourselves. After a short drive, we ended up at the Anchorage International Airport. Quickly, we got our bags and since Levi and I had already checked in online, we proceeded to security while the others got their boarding passes from the kiosks. The TSA seemed particularly picky today, and the machines seemed to flag a lot of false positives on many people around me, including myself.
Walking to the gate, I heard the same “ding-dong” sound introducing PA announcements that I had heard in Ben Gurion Airport. Hearing this and wanting a “video-or-it-didn’t-happen,” I took a few ten- to twenty-second videos hoping to capture the sound. But it failed! Once the others had gotten to the gate, Mom got coffee and got me a Cinnabon. The wait for the plane was unremarkable, and we all boarded in time for our 06:00 departure. And the rest of the trip would be unremarkable, so I am going to cut off the feed here and consider this the end of the vacation.
Eau Claire: 8 days
Bridge Regional: 29 days
UWEC Begin: 43 days