Sept. 4th – 5th – I was finally getting to go to Alaska! A good friend from when I lived in Wyoming in the 1990s had moved to Alaska in 2000, when I had moved to New York, and I was going to see her at last. We planned for a week visit, based at her home in Wasilla, and then she would get me back to the Anchorage airport to fly to Juneau, where I would go on a 2 week cruise.
I had cataract surgery at the end of August, first on one eye, then the next. Everyone was right – the colors are much brighter, and my vision sharper, so I am excited about seeing Alaska with my new eyes. But the travel time there was a challenge.
I set out on Tuesday morning Sept. 4th, with friends driving me down to Binghamton to catch a Greyhound Bus to NYC. After a stop at Scranton to let passengers off to transfer to other points in PA, and take on more passengers for New York City, we stopped once more for a rest stop at Gouldsboro PA Burger King. I hate Burger King, so I wandered into the convenience store attached, finally snagging Crunchy Cheetos and an Arizona Arnold Palmer tea can, while muttering to myself, “Who doesn’t love orange fingers?” and “Water would be better for me, but why be healthy?” – when I overheard a young man who couldn’t quite stifle his chuckle at my remarks.
When I got into The Port Authority, I had decided not to try MTA with my large suitcase and backpack. My daughter recommended a new service “Via” instead of “Uber” so I went online, was instructed to walk 2 blocks, and got my ride out to Long Island City with “Sam.” My drop off was 3 blocks from her high rise, which was fine. I picked up the keys from the door man, and went up to her apartment, where one dog greeted me and the other dog growled. I had intended to take them both out for a walk, but gave up on the one growling and cowering under her dining room table. The dog that is a brother to my own dog was very happy to be taken out for a walk by himself.
My daughter had made reservations for us at 6:00 PM at a wonderful nearby Mexican restaurant, so I took her dog back and met her over at the restaurant after she got back from work in Manhattan. We both ordered tacos carne Asada, plus guacamole and chips, and I indulged in sangria. I had a wonderful evening with my daughter, and then her partner when he finally got back home. After showering and changing to PJs, I was able to wash up the clothes I’d worn that day (I’d gotten hot and sweaty on the bus and in NYC), and repack for the morning.
Wednesday morning I was up even before my daughter at 5:00 AM, repacked, visited, enjoyed herbal tea, and hailed another ride on Via, this time out to JFK. Luckily there were no major accidents tying up the highways, and we made it in less than 30 minutes. I had checked in early online, so just needed to print out a tag for checking in my large suitcase, and then go through Security. There is never any way to predict how long Security at JFK will take since 9-11: sometimes 15 minutes, sometimes a couple hours. I lucked out and was through in 15 minutes. Since I was at my gate so early, I got a coffee and recharged my electronics while waiting for my flight.
My trip out to Alaska was all on Alaska Airlines. Instead of a straight flight, I first flew to Portland OR (about 5 hours in the air), then to Seattle (about 40 minutes in the air) and finally to Anchorage (about 4 hours in the air). I had purchased a fruit & cheese plate for breakfast on my first flight. The Portland airport apparently has high ratings from travelers! The layover in PDX was long enough to get lunch at Capers Café. I enjoyed a Greek massa plate (hummus, pita bread, Greek salad, etc.) , whose suggested pairing was a pinot grigio wine. A nearby guitarist in the center of the concourse was playing old 60s & 70s music on the guitar from James Taylor, the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel.
The next flight to Seattle was very short. We had to walk out onto the runway to board a prop plane, had quick service with just wine or water offered to drink & biscotti to eat, then landed at SEA. The only other airline I’ve flown that has offered a free glass of wine was Air France on the way to Paris. I decided that a glass of wine certainly took the edge off any nerves from the propellers spinning furiously next to me just off the plane wing.
At SEA I had to go downstairs and board a train to change concourses. I couldn’t find a chair that charged electronics in our gate area, so finally found a wall plug. My smartphone is nearly 2 years old and seems to lose its charge rapidly anymore. Finally they began boarding my flight to Anchorage. I always like to use the airport restrooms rather than the one in the plane, and my group was the last to board anyway. Finally everyone was aboard the plane, and we took off into the sunset.
Literally, the sunset. We flew 3 hours northwest into the sunset, with the sun near the horizon when we left Seattle and down but still dusk when we got to Anchorage just after 10 PM local time. By the time I deplaned, used the bathroom, and found my way to baggage claim, my large suitcase came around. I was able to grab it and wheel it out to the curb, finding my friend Rebecca, who I had called and texted. It was so great to see her again – after about 20 years.
It was about 45 minutes to drive up to her house near Wasilla/Palmer. She has a charming house near a small lake. She offered me a dry cabin to myself just below the main house, but I chosen instead a chair that folded out into a bed next to a bathroom upstairs – as a senior citizen, my bladder has priorities! By the time we said good night and went to bed, I had been up nearly 24 hours (with the time zone change). Despite dozing on the plane, I was exhausted, so even though I woke up at 7:30 New York time, it was only 3:30 Alaska time, so I went back to sleep until after 8 AM!