Tag Archives: Alaska

Alaska – Meeting our Deck-mates!

May 18th – Day 2 of our adventure!

BC coastline

BC coastline

Robert and I have become comfortably settled on our lounge chairs under the warm solarium heaters and taking in the peaceful and stunning views of the British Columbian coastline. This is the ultimate way to travel to Alaska. Great views, good company and large picnic basket of treats!

AM 18 ferry 10

British Coastline

Last night we began meeting our deck neighbors. They were a unique group of people. We had elderly couples moving to Alaska for retirement, a family of 12 musically talented kids on tour, students, more musicians, adventurous types from New Zealand to France and so forth. Everyone had a story.

 

Under the solarium

Under the solarium

First there was a man named Greg. He set up camp next to us on the first night and immediately began talking about his life, his past adventures and the new adventure he was about to start.  He became a big part of our ferry passage experience. Greg is a great and affable guy. I would love to tell you more about him, but I am saving the next post just for him.

Coastlines

Coastlines

In the café I met our deck mate Bob, a traveling ER Nurse and HAMM radio caller who was one his way to Homer, AK for a three month job assignment. Bob loves his job and is constantly moving about from one city to another working here and there as an ER nurse. He had even spent a year or so living and working in Hawaii while his daughter went to college. I instantly liked Bob. He was a very nice guy and we had many wonderful conversations over the next couple of days on a wide range of topics from travel to social issues. He was helpful enough to tell me all about some RV resources that I might find useful for future road trips and taught me the difference between Star side and Port Side! Which is very handy to know when the captain tells you that there is something of interest on port side to know what the heck port side is!

Oliver and Bob

Oliver and Bob

I also met Oliver, a traveling Frenchman and musician from the Paris area. He took to the family of touring musicians on the deck.  I watched him play his guitar with them a few times. The little boy from the family really liked him and would keep running up to him to show off what he was learning on his instrument. Oliver was really good with him! He also hung out with the girls from New Zealand – I didn’t speak with them much but not from not wanting too. With so many people I just didn’t get to make my way to them. Always missing one another.

Deck tents

Deck tents

We met an older couple who was drunk most of the trip. I don’t remember their names but the older man was a riot! He had a Mohawk with rattail and would repeat every question he asked several times. He talked a lot about his ex wife while his current and younger wife just sat and looked on like she wasn’t hearing anything. Several times he would offer his “Smooth” Brazilian rum. It was as smooth as a cactus plant! The couple was moving to Alaska because it was the man’s goal to return before he was 60 and he was achieving that goal with one day to spare! A few times I told him it was my birthday the day before. Each time he would ask “How old are you”. “34” I would reply and he would always respond “ I have kids older than you”. HAHA He thought Robert and I were a couple, though he would always make it known that it was not any business of his no matter how many times we told him we were only friends. He would ask questions I think just to ask and then forgot he asked them half way through our replies so the cycle would keep going. Must have been that “smooth” rum!  My favorite moment with the old man was when he asked if I met the pastor and I thought he was asking if I had met the bastard! What an awkward moment that was!

 

Coastline

Coastline

Finally there was a young Tlingit youth on hi way home from the lower 48. He was training as a mechanic near Portland, OR. Nice kid. We talked about the totem poles and he answered many questions that I had about how they were created. Impressive stuff, but more on that in a later post!

British Columbia Coastline

British Columbia Coastline

The passage today was good. We did have an hour or two in open water – thank goodness I wasn’t hung over. I don’t know how the Mr Mohawk with the “smooth” Brazilian rum fared in this portion of the trip. I was sober and not enjoying the rocking of the ship. I had to stay in the center of the ship and focus my mind on something other than the rocky movements to keep myself from getting seasick.  It was a short span and then the ship was back in the calmer more narrow channels of water.

 

Later in the day I actually saw whales off in the distance. I tried to tell people but everyone on the deck just looked at me and smiled like I was crazy or speaking in tongues. I don’t know, perhaps I was… There were whales in the distance, Killer whales in fact, but then the young boy from the musical family came over to correct me, actually he schooled me, about the whales not being whales. He said they were actually dolphins. I laughed and knowing not to argue with a 10 year old since they are usually smarter than the rest of us, I said “oh well, I am not from a sea area”. His responded “ well, I am from Minnesota”.  HA! Okay kid, point taken!

A few days later I learned from Bob that Killer Whales are not whales and they are actually a type of dolphin. Perhaps its time to change their names?

Robert

Robert

AM 18 ferry 4

Rocky Spruce Islands

Coastlines

Coastlines

AM 18 ferry 6

Evening

Am 18 ship 6

View of Solarium

 

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Alaska, The Beginning

Alaska sign

Traveling to Alaska was one of the most epic adventures I have ever tackled. It took me over a year to plan a month long  trip and was originally meant to be myself with three other people in a rented car tramping freely around the state. I can’t even give a number to how many times a route had to be changed or someone would drop out or to come to realization that one of my bucket list stops was not going to be possible during this trip. There were moments when I swore that I was never going to figure out the Alaska Marine Highway schedule – tip: skip the website and call the AMHS office!

AM 17 ferry shadow

My shadow!

In the end it was simply me, my friend Robert, my xterra – Teddy the Bean – and Alaska, my 49th state. It was perfect and better than planned!

the ferry

The columbia

The epic adventure began with a three thousand mile cross country trip from hometown, New Jersey to Seattle, Washington. Five days driving west, admiring the changing landscape, two mini Montana adventures and three friendly hitchhikers before arriving in Seattle to pick up Robert who was flying in from Florida. The first thing Robert said to me when I picked him up was “I hope you are prepared for this, I’m not!” That was when I knew that we were going to have a memorable adventure.

Robert

We made our way from Seattle to Bellingham – the I-5 bridge collapsed a few days after we crossed over it, scary – and spent a day collecting all the camping gear that we both procrastinated to purchase. Our plan was to board the ferry at the Bellingham terminal and enjoy three days of scenic views as we make our way to Juneau. Robert and I both thought it would be better and cheaper to camp under the solarium with other more adventurous travelers and it was the best idea!

Sunset 2

I first met Robert at a 2010 Travbuddy Iceland meet-up in Reykjavik. At the time I didn’t get much of a chance to get to know him, it was a large and rowdy meet up; but I instantly thought he was a really cool guy who clearly knew how to have some fun. He was the first person to accept my invitation to drive to and around Alaska and the only person who stayed when everyone else dropped out. Standing on the 8th deck with Robert and the rest of the solarium campers I knew that it was a blessing that everyone else dropped out. Not because the trip would be less amazing with the others, but I came to realize something that I had missed during past road trips with larger number of people. I realized that traveling with a larger group almost and unintentionally cuts you off from everyone else around you. Robert and I were able to mingle more with locals and other travelers because it was only two of us. We were more approachable and had more time to approach others. Additional people and then we might not have been quite as social. Not rudely anti-social, just more content with our group and maybe less aware of those around us. A smaller group allowed the freedom to make connections outside the group.

AM 17 solarium

The solarium

Robert and I met many new people on the ship, but I will save that for the next post.

 

AMH 17 ferry 1

The coast.

 

Bellingham 2

Bellingham terminal

AM 17 ferry sunset 3

AM 17 ferry sunset 1


Painting an Alaskan Postcard

I am still not prepared to post about my magnificent trip to Alaska this past Spring. There are so many notes to look through and photos that still to be work on, but I did come across one of the postcards I painted while aboard the Columbia on the Alaskan Marine Highway that I wanted to share.

Alaska by the Ferry

I painted a few postcards while on the ship, but, before I was smart enough to photograph any of them, fellow passengers took a genuine liking to my work and asked if they could buy them. Feeling a bit generous I opt to give them away for free. Originally I had planned to paint my own postcards throughout the trip and mail them home to friends and family, but there was so much going on that I never actually found the time to stop, sit and paint as I had fantasized. It was a lot of work to keep up with my travel journal on a daily basis, let alone paint the landscape. When my fellow passengers sincerely wanted to mail my Alaskan landscape watercolor sketches to their family I was more than happy to just give them the postcard. I did, however, get some good conversation in exchange and a reason beyond my personal enjoyment to paint some more.

One of my recipients was a young girl about the age of 13. She came from a large family of twleve kids and they would travel the country singing bluegrassy hymns at various fairs across the states. Her birthday was our final day on the ferry so I gave her not only a postcard I painted but a book of blank postcards for her to paint as well.

Another recipient was a woman from a group of people who came up to enjoy our 8th deck scenery. She was a bit intoxicated but affable. She and I had a enjoyable conversation about Alaska’s scenery and what we will miss most about the great state. She had forgotten to buy postcards for her family and wanted to mail mine if I would sell it to her. The idea of my artwork traveling through the mail was good enough for me!

The final recipient was a guy that I had a bit of a crush on through out the ferry passage. It took me several days to finally muster up the courage to speak with him and I had the brilliant idea of giving him my favorite postcard with my contact info on it.. too forward?? lol I hope not. no word from him yet, but who knows.

I don’t remember where the ship exactly was when I sketched this scene. I am suspecting, judging by the bright yellowing sunset, that we were between Juneau and Ketchikan when the days were still incredibly long. I sat on the 8th deck of the Columbia, admiring the passing mountains and islands covered with evergreens, felt inspired by the brilliant colors and jovial mood of the deck. It was a challenge to sit and paint with the wind whipping around. A few times I had to chase after my little paper cup of water before it blew into the water.

Part of my trip was to meet people and these little postcards did wonders in that category! Next time I make it to Alaska I will def make the time to stop, sit and paint. 🙂