Alaska Vacation 2012

Day 1 – Monday, June 11, 2012


Having packed our suitcases this past weekend, we load up the van after work, leave the house at 7:15 p.m. and head up Interstate 5.  In Valencia, we stop for dinner and then head back out on the road, arriving in Firebaugh, California at 12:30 a.m.  Our trip begins with a set of road songs: Ann Wilson’s “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place”, John Fogerty’s “Hot Rod Heart”, Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend”, Steve Earle’s “Someday”, and Neil Diamond’s (accompanied by Chet Atkin’s guitar picking) “Blue Highways.”  Having ended the set on a country theme, we fill our ride with the music of Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knofler, and Steve Earle.

Day 2 – Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Firebaugh, California

We leave Firebaugh at 11:00 a.m. and drive north on Interstate 5.  Lunch (and ice cream) is at Granzella’s Deli in Williams, California and we then decide to drive on through to Yreka.  Mount Shasta is majestic, wearing a crown of clouds. We arrive in Yreka at 7:00 p.m. and have dinner at the Black Bear Diner.

Day 3 – Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yreka, California

We had decided to drive to Yreka so we could go to Crater Lake and still make it to Eugene as planned. The lake is beautiful and although the day is warm, there is still significant snow on the ground. What a beautiful ride up Interstate 5 through Oregon!  We are surrounded by tall evergreens and as we turn corners we see majestic snow-topped mountains rising above the trees.

Day 4, Thursday, June 14, 2012, Flag Day

Eugene, Oregon

Another day of travel as we arrive at Seatac to pick up Nate, Sara, and Molly at the airport and then head to the hotel. The Silver Cloud Hotel sits on Lake Union and we are given a suite that has a view of the lake. We have a light lunch at Duke’s (for Dodger Duke Snyder).  In the evening I walk about a mile up the street to Pazzo’s for a pizza. Tomorrow our sea adventure begins.

Day 5 – Friday, June 15, 2012

Seattle, Washington

This morning I’m feeling anxious about getting everyone to the seaport on time.  I’m feeling as if I’m outside my body, almost like I’m in a dream, as if what is happening is just not quite real.  It must be the anxiousness causing it.  After breakfast, I take a walk down by the waterside and on my way back, meet up with Sara and Molly. We walk for a while, spend some time in a play yard, walk through a spiral path made up of stick walls, and then head back to the hotel.  The anxiousness has subsided.

The first trip to the port is to take Nate, Sara, Molly, and Dee Ann to the port. We decide that Nate will ride back with me to pick up the rest of the gang which we plan to do in two trips. As we are nearing the hotel, Nate observes that it is taking 45 minutes to make a round trip.  So we decide to try to get the rest of the family and all their suitcases in the van for one trip.  With Nate’s and Kevin’s puzzle-solving abilities and everyone’s willingness to surround themselves with bags (“hand me that; we have the room for another”), we get everyone there on-time. The Marriott Hotel across from the port parks our car for the voyage and we are off on our adventure.

Our cabin attendant is Naw-‘so-ha (pronunciation) from Indonesia.  David and Lauri are in the cabin next to us, allowing conversations between our balconies.  A light lunch at 2:45, emergency drill at 3:45, departure at 4:00, unpacking completed for dinner at 5:45, and hot tub for Dee Ann and Sara finish the day.  Within moments of closing my eyes, I am fast asleep.

Day 6 – Saturday, June 16, 2012

At sea

Waking just before 6:00 a.m., I can see the first light of the morning beginning to glow through the stateroom curtains. The ship is moving slightly side to side, causing a corner of our cabin to creak. Looking outside, we are traveling through a fog bank, Sporadic whitecaps appearing in the ocean beyond the wake of our boat.

All the adults in our group experienced some level of sea sickness. After some Dramamine and a few naps, we were all feeling better.  After eating dinner at the buffet, we saw the iBroadway show which highlighted show tunes and was topped off with an acrobatic act.  Quality talent!

Day 7 – Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ketchikan, Alaska

From what I understand, today is a typical day in Ketchikan: overcast and raining. Nate, Sara, David, and Lauri went on a zip line adventure that included crossing a couple suspension bridges and seeing a couple bears. Dee Ann, Molly and I spent the morning walking and shopping in town, then took a trolley ride to Saxon Totem Park, and then returned to the ship.  I was reminded again how much I dislike shopping, especially in tourist areas.  But we had a good time together anyway.  Good company, a bowl of good clam chowder, and time with a grandchild; what more could one ask for?

Now I’m sitting on our balcony as we are pulling away from Ketchikan. White fluffy clouds rest along the mountain ridges, the air is cool, and all is at peace.

Day 8 – Monday, June 18, 2012

Juneau, Alaska

Rising early, I make my way to the top of the ship as we travel deep into Tracy Arm Fjord.  As we proceed toward the glacier, large chunks of blue ice float past the ship.  Grooves in the steep canyon walls provide evidence of the glacier having cut its way through the fjord.  The chunks of ice grow larger and we begin to see seals lying on these floating ice rafts.  When the glacier appears before us, it is a sight to behold!  The captain takes us as far as is safe and then, turning the ship around, we head for Juneau.  Around 3:00 p.m., we meet Laurie Hubbard at the dock.  She has two cars for us so we split up between them, Laurie driving one and Nate driving the other.  We first drive out to the Mendenhall Glacier in Tongass National Forest and spend some time walking near the lake, the children touching the water and ice.  What a beautiful sight!  A blue glow seems to emirate from the larger-than-life block of ice.  From there we stop by Laurie’s home and eat lunch while Laurie picks up her friend at the airport.  From there we stopped by Laurie’s church then head “out the road,” see a black bear, and then go to see the Shrine of Saint Therese, a beautiful retreat setting.  Heading back down the highway, we drive by the dump, see a few Bald Eagles, and then experienced a delicious fish and chips dinner.  Back at the dock we say our “good-byes” and then board the ship.

Day 9 – Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Skagway, Alaska

This morning we arrive in port early and head out on the White Pass Scenic Railway, high into the mountains and crossing into Canada.  The trip is spectacular with its deep valleys, snowy mountain peaks, dark tunnels, river rapids, and long, sleek waterfalls.  The pictures we take can never portray the majesty of the views we experience.  After a couple hours in downtown Skagway, we head back to the boat.

Day 10 – Wednesday, June 20, 2012

At sea

Today is spent traveling south toward Vancouver, Canada.  The trip is a bit rough since we are riding on the open sea.  Tried to get in some reading, but the Dramamine brings on sleepiness, so most of the day is spent napping.  Molly spends the night with us.  Sara looks exhausted.  Hopefully a night alone with Nate will bring some rejuvenation.

Day 11 – Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vancouver, Canada

Most of the daylight hours have been spent on the open sea, arriving in Vancouver at 6:00 p.m.  Dee Ann and Sara go into the city for a tour of the gardens and then a time of tea.  Others also go for tea or spend time in town. I stay behind on the ship to relax and get some reading in.

Sara seems much more relaxed today. In conversation, she makes an interesting observation.  I have been feeling some frustration with having to follow the necessary structure of an orchestrated cruise schedule.  Sara comments that there seems to be a conflict with the way they handle time.  For example, there are no clocks on the ship which creates the impression that they don’t want us to know what time it is.  Yet meals, shows, excursions, and departures require very strict time schedules for the guests.  I think this describes the cause of my frustration.

We have a couple interesting conversations today.  One is with regard to the international experience that a cruise provides.  The crew members come from countries all around the world and as we interact with them, our worldview cannot help but be affected. Many crew members have stopped to admire Molly and when asked about their own families, speak fondly of their children back home.  A second conversation with Sara involves how the current staff structure of our school systems is hindering our children’s education. Some teachers want to be administrators, so they put in their five years of teaching (as required) so they can apply for administrative jobs.  Sometimes this leaves our children’s education lacking. On the other hand, some teachers seek administrative jobs toward the end of their career because they want to increase their retirement; inadequate administrators also leaves our children’s education lacking.  This is not to imply that all of education is this way; we have many dedicated and committed teachers and administrators that are doing good work.  However, our educational system has its weaknesses that need correcting.

Day 12 – Friday, June 22, 2012

Seattle, Washington

The family all came together for breakfast this morning in the dining room before heading for the Celebrity Theater to await disembarkation. When our number is called, we leave the ship, go through Customs, say our “good-byes,” and walk across the street to get our van which has been parked at the Marriott.  The rain is falling steadily and it is predicted to continue over the next few days   We drive by SPU and then to Queen Anne Hill to find a laundromat.  After washing our clothes, we have lunch at a local sandwich cafe and then head to our hotel.  After checking in, we take Nate, Sara, and Molly to their hotel in downtown.  Dinner of clam chowder and scallops at the Big Fish Grill and then back to the hotel to plan for tomorrow.

Day 13 – Saturday, June 23, 2012

Redmond, Washington

This morning we go for a ride up Whidbey Island.  Breakfast is at Sheri’s, a coffee shop similar to Coco’s in Southern Cal and then we head for the ferry at Mukilteo.  On the shore of Puget Sound in Mukilteo, we visit a lighthouse before boarding the ferry to Whidbey Island.  Up to this point, the sky has been overcast, but now it starts raining which continues off and on until we returned to Seattle.  Once off the ferry, we drive to Coupeville to visit the Island County Historical Museum for a look at Whidbey’s historical past.  Continuing north, we stop at Deception Pass State Park.  I take a short hike to view the Deception Pass bridge from below and hike up to a beautiful view at Goose Rock Summit.  The sounds: rushing water below and fast moving cars above.  The colors: multiple shades of green trees, grasses, and ferns, brown ragged tree trunks, black rock cliffs, yellow, white, red, and violet wild flowers.  The smells: cool fresh air with hints of pine.  From there we cross the bridge and head back to Seattle.  Meeting Nate, Sara, and Molly at their hotel, we drive to Ivar’s Salmon House for dinner where we dine with a great view of the city from the north end of Union Lake.

Day 14 – Sunday, June 24, 2012

Redmond, Washington

Today we enjoy a scenic drive south on US-101; Washington is such a beautiful state!  We arrive in Astoria about 4:00 p.m. and go to the Chamber of Commerce’s visitors center.  We are provided with great ideas for what to see in the area and information that helps us make a plan for tomorrow.  Dinner is at the Ford George Brewery consisting of homemade sweet Italian sausage, sauerkraut, carraway seed spicy mustard, and locally brewed wasabi ginger ale.  Simply a great day.

Day 15 – Monday, June 25, 2012

Astoria, Oregon

In high school we learned about Lewis and Clark, a couple of “Davy Crockett” type adventurers, and their expedition out west to find a water corridor from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.  If you had asked me about them yesterday, that would have been the sum total of my knowledge about them, accurate or not.  So with the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks readily available, we make today Lewis and Clark day.  Our adventure begins in Washington in the Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park where the  exhibits provide an overview of the Corps of Discovery’s entire journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean.  The Corps, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and led by Lewis and Clark, actually consisted of around 50 individuals.  After three and a half hours at the center, we then drive across the Columbia River to Fort Clatsop in Oregon, the 1805/06 winter camp for the Corps of Discovery.  The highlight of the day is a conversation with the costumed docents; their understanding of the life and times of Lewis and Clark is enlightening.  Although it rains most of the day, it stops in the evening and the day ends with a spectacular sunset over the Columbia River.

Day 16 – Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Astoria, Oregon

This morning as we drive around the city, we listen to a recording of a local historian describing the history of the people and events of the area.  The waterfront, the classic downtown streets, and the Victorian and Craftsman homes have been preserved by a people who appreciate lessons from their past.  We drive to the top of the city to the Astoria Column that commemorates the early Native Americans who lived in the area and the adventurers who explored the lands for England and the United States.  The view of the Columbia River is spectacular!  As I begin my climb to the top of the column, a man coming down says, “if you lose count, you have to start over!”  He must be a fellow stair counter.  After climbing the 164 steps, I am greeted with a breathtaking view of the Pacific ocean, the mouth of the Columbia River, mountains, trees, and a soaring Bald Eagle.  Truly a view to remember.  From there we travel down US-101 to Tillamook, have lunch and ice cream at the cheese factory, and then continue south to Roseburg to spend the night with Les and Aldeana Stuart at their home in the hills of Oregon.

Day 17 – Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Roseburg, Oregon

What a great visit with Les and Aldeana!  After a breakfast of waffles and bacon and a walk-about of the farm, we tour the city of Roseburg.  Heading out of town, we drive to the seaside community of Bandon where we are greeted with a fresh ocean breeze, a clear blue sky dotted with white clouds, and a small marina of fishing and pleasure crafts.  In the distance a fog horn sounds and a lighthouse stands ready at the mouth of the harbor.  In addition to a totem pole, the marina has wood carvings of sea creatures spread around the boardwalk.  After speaking with locals on the pier who are fishing for crab, we drive a few blocks to Coquille Point to view the scenic Oregon Islands.  After dinner of fish and chips at a local establishment, our day concludes with the country road drive back to Roseburg.

Day 18 – Thursday, June 28, 2012

Roseburg, Oregon

A view from the living room window: a valley falls away from the house with layers of hills and  mountain ranges.  With each layer, the color transitions from vivid colors to blended blue-greens to the purple silhouette of the coastal mountain range beneath a clear blue sky.  The beauty of God’s creation.

Later in the morning, a doe walks by with two spotted fawns following her.  Eagles soar, birds are singing, chickens clucking, and roosters crowing; a morning in the country.

After a quick trip to the top of the property, we leave the Stuart’s homestead and head to the California coast for a drive through the redwoods.

Day 19 – Friday, June 29, 2012

Eureka, California

Yesterday as we entered the Redwoods, Dee Ann and I joked about whether or not a section of Redwood Highway should be named for us.  (I’m not quite ready for T&D Wallace Memorial Highway).  We so enjoy our trips through this area that we feel somewhat of a sense of ownership of these roads.  The beauty of the designed details: wild flowers, ferns, reeds, bull rushes, wild life, trees, mountains, ocean all blend into an event to be experienced.  The ownership results from the experience.  We may not be able to own the land, but we do own the experience and the memory.

We stop for breakfast at the Benbow Inn in the midst of the redwood forest.  Good food, a white tablecloth, and a redwood-framed picture window top off the morning.

It is 3:00 p.m. when we reach Novato and, after a short nap, go to see Aunt Dot.  Although her expression doesn’t change as we enter the room, she recognizes us and the nurse’s assistant helps her sit up.  She has aged since we last saw her.  She speaks softly, infrequently, has trouble coming up with words, sometimes loses her thought mid-sentence, but responds to our questions.  We hold her hands, walk down the hall with her, and show her pictures of family.  She recognizes her mother and siblings, others she isn’t quite sure.  On one thing she is definite and repeats several times, “I wish you could stay.”

The day ends in good conversation at dinner with Patti and Ed; family is a gift of God.

Day 20 – Saturday, June 30, 2012

Novato, California

It is a day of driving from Novato through San Francisco to Port Hueneme.  As we drive, we finish our reading of Jon Krakauer’s book, “Under the Banner of Heaven.”  We have dinner at Adriana’s at Ventura Harbor (the line was out the door, as usual), eating clam chowder and fish ‘n chips of the trip.  We are looking forward to a quiet evening before heading home tomorrow.

Day 21 – Sunday, July 1, 2012

Port Hueneme, California

After a good night’s rest and a quick breakfast at the hotel, we drive down Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu and met Nate, Sara, and Molly at their church in Santa Monica.  The last day of a trip is always filled with mixed emotions.  In one way we look forward to returning to the comforts of the familiar, but then also feel the loss of the adventure that the road brings.   For us a vacation has three major segments: planning, experiencing, and remembering, so it encompasses much more than just a trip.  Borrowing words from Steve Earle, for us the road is “longer than a memory.”

Our song set for the final leg expresses our many emotions: “The Long Day is Over” by Nora Jones, “Home Before Dark” by Neil Diamond, “Let’s Stay Here” by Oleta Adams, “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters, “Taking You Home” by Don Henley, “Gravity” by Alison Krauss & Union Station, “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash, and “Homeward Bound” by Simon and Garfunkel.

Total miles driven: 3,205

We are grateful to our Lord for a safe trip, for the adventure of experiencing new sights, for new learning, and for time with family and friends.