Saturday, August 11, 2012

Planes, Boats & Automobiles

Many would say that I have been around, meaning, lived a lot of different places.  I guess it depends what your definition of 'a lot' is.

I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a city of 600,000 in the center of Canada (above North Dakota and yes, it is C-O-L-D in the winter).  In my late 20's I moved to the warmer and bigger city of Vancouver, B.C. (above Seattle, WA).  Still in search of a hotter climate, after three years,  I was on the move again, this time to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico... now we're talking heat.  Five years, one child and a new language later, I decided to return to the continent, to the suburbs of Tampa, Florida, only to find myself craving the ocean.  I moved again to another tropical paradise, Anna Maria Island, 20 miles North of Sarasota, Florida and a 2 minute walk to the beach.

So yea, I guess you could say that I have zig zagged the continent, experienced some things and have had to adapt, and adapt again to my surroundings.  No fear, no regret, I enjoy learning the different ways in which places function.

Even with all my experience I was still caught off guard when I started to plan our trip to Alaska.  I naively thought we would go to Alaska and take ferries or cars to all the different places where my Papa was stationed in WW2: Umnak, Adak, Anchorage, Kodiak, Dutch. That is until I spoke with a local Alaskan, Joan, who let me know that just one of the routes I wanted to take via the Alaskan Marine Highway would take three and a half days!!   She advised me to take a plane, which I hesitantly concurred.  Although Joan does not know it, that was the moment that clicked within me, when I realized that I knew virtually nothing about how to get around in Alaska and it may be interesting to start blogging about this journey.  From traveling there to the war history, there is so much to be discovered.  What made our conversation even more noteworthy was that she also had a relative who fought as an Alaskan Ranger in the Aleutian Island campaign!

A ferry traveling the Alaskan Marine Highway
Admittedly, I was not happy to hear about having to fly, you see, I have a slight fear of flying on those little planes.  And to be honest, at this point in my planning,  I am not even sure how 'little' the planes are on that route.  My only point of reference is the Discovery Channel's- Flying Wild Alaska, and they use some small planes. Six seaters... yikes!  And yes, I know that my fear is unjust, planes are safer than cars, which is what I had to keep telling myself this year as we flew right through the middle of Tropical Storm Debby into Tampa.  Truth be told, that watching Flying Wild Alaska has actually helped boost my confidence level in regards to those small planes.  It seems that those pilots, and I am now assuming all pilots,  handle turbulent weather well without fear and with confidence.  Almost like us non-pilots driving our cars.   If they trust themselves and the planes they fly then I can survive on a little ol' plane too.  That is my new mantra, repeat, repeat, repeat. Ok, first adaptation made.

Pen Air- The Spirit of Alaska, one of the few airlines servicing Alaskan communities.

The next reality check happened when I looked up the prices of the flights from Anchorage to Unalaska and to Adak.  They were both around a thousand dollars each ticket, each destination.  I guess I have to remember that the Aleutian Islands are so spread out, and it would be like flying from Tampa to New York City.  Another interesting discovery is that flights to Adak only depart twice per week, 3 days apart. And although I have not written about Adak yet, know that the population is only about 326 people.   So next adaptation needed: an increase in my initial budgeting forecast by... a lot and to plan for a fishing trip or two in Adak.

So it's on, so much to learn, so much to explore, so much research to be done.  Can you put a price on a mission of honor?  Not in my books.  Time to make my Papa proud, just like he made us when he defended our continent.

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