Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hello Kodiak..

Ahem.. where was I....

Without ever having been there, I saw Kodiak as a special place. I have not quite figured out why exactly besides the fact that my grandfather spent much of his WW2 time on this awe inspiring island.   I could not wait to get my feet planted on that majestic soil.  First things first though, conquering my fear of small planes.  These tiny planes, also known as Air Taxi's, dot the Alaskan skies and are a very common mode of transportation between small villages. Quite frankly, I am not even sure if what I was scheduled to fly on would be considered an Air Taxi with its eight rows of seats.  The De Havilland Dash 8 Turboprop is part of the Ravn fleet of planes.  Ravn was formerly the conglomerate group of Era Alaska, Frontier and Hageland Aviation, which made up the largest air carrier in the state. They even used to have their own reality show on the Discovery Channel, titled Flying Wild Alaska. There you could catch a glimpse of the day in the life of the Tweto family, who ran Era Alaska. This show quickly became one of my favorites, because it allowed me to see what flying the Alaskan skies was like for my grandfather.  The company eventually went through a re-branding and sadly the show is no longer being filmed.  Sometimes, if your lucky though,  you can still catch the reruns. Remarkably, it is said that one in ten Alaskans is actually a pilot.  You would think that all this information would bring me some comfort. Nope.  Not so much. 

My air chariot to Kodiak Island, Alaska- DE HAVILLAND DASH 8 TURBOPROP

I arrived at the Anchorage Airport the usual one hour early, only to find no lines and a lot of pre boarding time on my hands.  The plane was so small that there were no assigned seats, and actual boarding time was only 10 minutes before the flight.  So I did what any nervous gal would do to calm the nerves, I hit the airport bar.  Parking myself in the only open spot they had, next to a friendly local gentleman, who had plenty of cash lying in piles on the bar in front of him.  He immediately engaged me in conversation about who I was and where I was off to, in the exchange for his own information. He, named Sam, was from the North Slope.  The North Slope being as far North in Alaska as you can be along the Arctic Ocean.  There is big oil all along the North Slope so it is, surprisingly to me, a busy place.  Oddly, Sam did not know where his final destination was.  Guess he was just going to hang out in the airport for days.... a whole different kind of adventure.  Beside him (at least according to him) we were his new best friends, two native Alaskan women, Nastasia and Wilma.   One from Bethel, and the other from Hooper Bay. What a great, but brief time we had.  As I began to tell them what had brought me to their state, they expressed the importance of knowing how WW2 effected the Alaskan natives.  How so many of them were relocated and interned.  How families were separated. How land was taken away.  Villages torn apart.  A whole other disheartening and often overlooked calamity of war.    Although brief, I learned a lot from my new friends.  It was one of my most memorable moments for sure.  As all good things must come to an end, so did my time at the airport bar.  Fifteen to twenty minutes before boarding, I said my good byes and headed over to the gate, only to arrive there and find the crew waiting for the last passenger to board: me.   Apparently they had been calling my name over the airport loud speaker. Evidently, airport speakers do not work in the airport bars.  Whoops.  

My new friends.
 Sam, Nastasia and Wilma 

I boarded, and seeing as there was no allotted seating, I picked almost the first seat I could find which was not that difficult as the plane was half empty.  I chose a seat next to a girl about my daughters age.  Turned out to be a well suited partner for my first teeny tiny airplane experience.  She was a transplanted Kodiakian on her way home to see her grandmother, Barb, for the summer.  This brave lil girl was flying by herself, although I am positive she would not think of herself as courageous, as she has been flying this route solo, for years.  And as I looked around the plane, not one passenger looked the least bit nervous, except me, the wimpy outsider.  I chose to take some comfort in everyone else's calmness, at least momentarily.   

She talked the whole trip about this or that.  Showed me her fashion designs.  Told me about her parents, her siblings, her grandmother... it was the perfect distraction.  Until we landed.  Then her chipper tone turned into one laced with doubt about why we kept descending, without being able to see the ground, and how surprised she was, that we could not yet see land.  Oh boy.  Finally, several hundred feet above the water,  we were below the thick fog, and landed safely on the frequently wet Kodiak runway.  Albeit a bumpy landing, enough to make the flight attendants eyes light up,  I had made it.  Afterall,  I am on a mission to retrace my grandfathers steps, and flying in the fog is all part of it.  Why would it be anything different?

Top- Leaving Anchorage.

Middle- The view for 55 of the 60 minute flight.

Right- Finally through the fog, just  a 

 few minutes before we landed.

Top- A rainy Kodiak welcome.
Bottom- The airport.  That's pretty much all of it.
If you look closely, you can still see our plane outside the window.

Once in the airport,  I introduced myself to the grandmother of the little blessing that I sat beside on the flight.  In a typical small town fashion she then offered to drive me to my destination- Mrs. Potts Bed & Breakfast, whom she knew.  Of course.  Come to find out, everyone knows everyone in Kodiak.  Our drive home turned into a rainy tour of the most adorable and beautiful fishing town.  I would say, that the fog and the rain was a warm Kodiak welcoming, that was part of the authentic experience I was looking for.   I welcomed it.  In fact, when I arrived at the B&B I dropped my stuff off, suited up in my spunky new orange rain gear and hit the streets, to find myself a beer and a warm meal, preferably something freshly caught, like Kodiak cod.   

Top L-R: Foggy Kodiak Harbor, Mrs. Potts' B&B- my home away from home.
Second L:  The Mall; a U shaped section of a few stores and bars in downtown of Kodiak.
Bottom: View of a harbor where some Deadliest Catch boats dock when not at sea.
Namely:  Saga, Seabrook, Cornelia Marie
Note the thick fog we just landed in.  There is a large mountain hidden within it.  

Henry's Great Alaskan Restaurant in the downtown "Mall" sounded like just the spot.  The place was packed, mostly with hungry fisherman it seemed, all fueling up and letting loose after a long rainy day of hard work.  The food was scrumptious and the local beer was smooth.  Just what I needed at the end my day's adventure.  Before returning to my quaint little B&B, I leisurely strolled around the harbor in the rain, soaking the experience all in, and thinking about my grandfather and his comrades, and how they would have been strolling in this same spot 70 years ago.  Sigh,  I had finally made it. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Little More Elmendorf

Just thought I would share some of the other sites around Elmendorf-Richardson Joint Base.  It is very large base as you can imagine with both the Air Force and Army stationed there. Unfortunately, we went on a Sunday so the runways were quiet.  We'll try again next year to get an up close experience with an F-16.   One of the things we did see was some of their retired aircraft, both old and new on display.   The weather the day we went was so pleasant that we had absolutely no problem leisurely strolling around base enjoying the glorious sunshine and clean Alaskan air.  Clean is no over exaggeration, the smell of Alaskan air is so light.  It seemed effortless to breath.  A wonderful break from the thick, heavy moisture filled air that I am currently gasping for during this near one hundred degree Florida summer.

Top- A recovered & refurbished P-38 our guide, Col. Cloe helped recover from Attu Island in 1999.
Bottom- Little  ol' me and a enormous Hercules.   

Top L-R- Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, McDonnell F-4 Phantom,
Northrop F-89 Scorpion.

 Second Row- a Lockheed T-33 Tee Bird 
Third Row- an F-16

How many people does it take to capture the blowing of dandelion fluff....
 apparently too many.   Dandelion fun.   Something we don't have in Florida. 

Alaska National Guard Memorial Park.
Top L- tank, personel carrier,  Sikorsky CH-54B Sky Crane.

Top L-R- Yukla Memorial.  On a routine surveillance mission this flight crashed 
and all 24 American and Canadian airmen on board were lost,
Second Left- rescued eagles who now call the base home,
Bottom- the air park. 

Bottom- Top- "Wait up Ma!" A MOOSE and her darling babies
darting through traffic in an Anchorage suburb,
 a beautiful Alaskan evening at 10P.M.,
the late night view of the Chugach Mountains from my room.

That concludes day two in Anchorage.  Next up, a bit of work related research in the form of a visit to the Ice Spa, it's rough, I know.... Then, off to Kodiak Island!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Elmendorf-Richardson Joint Base

I must say, it is very advantageous to know people who are familiar with the area when traveling.   Lucky for me,  on our trip we had 4 locals, one former local, and then us foreigners: me- the transplanted Canadian, an Italian and a Dutchman.   The local peeps were wonderful hosts picking us up and chauffeuring us where the group needed.  God Bless them, I mean really,  the cost of renting a car in Alaska is outrageous not to mention the effeciency and invaluable benefit of being with someone who knows where they are going especially on this type of trip.  So very thankful.

Colonel Cloe and his wife hosted a wonderful fresh caught salmon dinner
which started with reindeer sausage and Alaskan beer.  Delish! 

After I walked off my gooey yet decadent raspberry pinwheel I was picked up by Allison (former Anchorage resident) and we headed south east towards the base.  We were there a little early so we pit stopped at the Alaska Heritage Center gift shop.   Interestingly, there I found a Haida Gwaii scarf that I had regretted not buying last summer while thousands of miles away,  in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, at the Museum of Civilization.  Did not make that mistake twice.  Talk about a great use of 15 minutes, eh Allison?

We forged ahead and met the others at the front gate of Elmendorf-Richardson Air Force/Army Joint Base. Unfortunately once inside the guard station, we were informed that our non citizens needed to apply weeks in advance to be given access to the base which meant that our tight click would now have to split up.   It ended up that half went to the Aviation Heritage Museum with Col. Cloe and the other half moved forward with the base tour.   Happily, I was part of the latter group. 

Although combined in 2005 by the Base Closure and Reassignment Commission it was not until 2010 that the two branches of the military were merged into one location.  It currently acts as the headquarters for the United States Alaskan Command, 11th Air Force, U.S. Army Alaska, and the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region. Major units to be found there are the Eleventh Air Force, 673d Air Base Wing, Alaskan Air Command, Alaskan NORAD region, United States Army, 4th Brigade Combat team (Airborne) 25th infantry division, 3rd Wing (USAF) and numerous other tenant units. 

My grandfather was stationed at Elmendorf for roughly 3 months and for the members of the R.C.A.F the base served as a place where they would primarily learn the USAF radio procedures before moving into the more active postings further west.   Bill Eull, who has spent countless hours researching the 111F Squadron has a super write up on what life was like for the Canadians who were stationed there.  Bill continues to amaze me on the work he has done on the behalf of service men.  Keep it up Bill, there are a lot of watery eyes looking down with grand appreciation.

While on base, my "To Do" list included a visit to the gravesides of my grandfathers fellow squadron members who died while serving in Alaska.  To even find the Allied section, which was not marked on the cemetery map, we had to fight off bird like mosquitoes for quite a while.  We finally located the section next to the Japanese grave markers and behind a hill, not even in plain sight.  Granted the section was not very big but still.... behind a hill next to the then, opposition?  Jeesh. 

Top- Japanese Memorial.
 Bottom- R.C.A.F Pilots:  S/L Kerwin, F/S Maxmen,  F/S Lennon, F/O Whiteside

Anyways, there they sat.  It was sad to see those gravesides.  So far away from home.  Made me wonder who visits them?  Who pays them any honor?   My way to pay tribute to them was to do what we do in Canada and that is to use poppies as a symbol of recognition for their sacrifice. I laid poppies alongside the sites of four of the five fearless airmen who died when they got lost in the fog and crashed into Unalaska Island.  F/O Gordon Baird, not pictured, was lost at sea and was therefore located in a separate section, a section for those missing in action.  My grandfather would have been flying with them that day but by the grace of God, he crashed landed his plane one day earlier and was forced to travel to Umnak as a DC-9 passenger with the ground crew.  Who would have thought that a plane crash would have saved his life. Luckily for me, it was just not his time. 

Goes to show you that we all have a time limit on this earth. Some are gone way too soon, some seemingly with out meaning, but for all of us, it is the only thing guaranteed in life. That alone, makes me want to go out and live my very best life possible while I am still blessed with actually being alive.  In some way, it makes other peoples loss a little less senseless. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Adrift On The Streets Of Anchorage

The start of day two in Alaska proved to be no different than any other day of my life.  I was up early eager to get my day started.  There was a downtown Anchorage flea market that I wanted to explore before I was to be picked up by our Puk-Uk crew.  But the first order of business was to find myself a nice hot cup of coffee and a good Alaskan breakfast.  You would think that in such a cold climate it would be an easy task.  Turns out, it wasn't.   I walked the main strip- old historic 4th Avenue.  The non main strip.  The back strip.  The water strip.  Even pestered the locals for suggestions with no luck.  Now starving and suffering through the beginning stages of caffeine withdrawal, I  eventually ended up at my originally intended destination- the flea market.  Guess that is one way to get a thorough tour of Anchorage city life. 

4th Avenue then and now. 
Top L-R- Anchorage fur sales are still going strong as many people traditionally
use furs to stay warm in the frigid winter,  the original Army Navy Surplus still alive and kicking,
Historic City Hall,  Train Station.

Regardless, it turned out to be a favorable turn of events.  I found a wonderful local cup of joe that warmed my insides as I toured all the local artisan stands searching for some original artwork to bring home with me.   Once satisfied with my selections, I made my way to the food vendor section of the market.  Surprisingly they had quite a multicultural variety which included Thai, Korean, BBQ, Persian and Greek foods.  In any other situation, those would have all been superior options, but I wanted uniquely Alaskan food.  My choice- a reindeer dog.  It sounded like the real deal to me.  It is similar to the typical hot dog only larger and more sausage like. Truly, if you did not know you were eating Santa's trusty sleigh staff, you would not be able to tell the difference.   It was delicious.  Sorry Santa....  One quick stop to the area bakery table for a raspberry pinwheel, and I made my full belly way back to the hotel where the rest of my day would begin, at Elmendorf Air Force Base.   This base is one of my most anticipated stops. I have been dreaming about visiting there for years and it was now about to happen. A happy, happy day lies ahead. 

Flea Market in downtown Anchorage. 

Left- a reindeer dog,  Right- raspberry pinwheels. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Day One In The Books

These views are all in a hours drive.
Along the way back to Anchorage from Whittier.  

One last stop and day two is in the books.    We made a quick visit along side Merrill Field to view the 11th Air Force Memorial.    This memorial honors the names of all its airmen, both American and Canadian who lost their lives in WW2.  The 11th Air Force, who dominated and protected the Alaskan skies for both the Second World and the Cold Wars, originated in 1940 right there at Merrill Field.  Just after origination, they transferred their operation just a few miles east to where it is now, at Elmendorf Air Force Base.  The 11th Air Force was renamed the Alaska Air Command only to eventually (1990) return to their root name- the 11th Air Force.   Now a days, you can still find them patrolling the Alaskan skies.  I excitedly saw several F-16's take off and land from my hotel room.  Very cool. 

During WW2 the Americans and Canadians worked together under the command of 11th Pursuit to defend Alaska against the Japanese.  In the words of my grandfather, when asked in the 1980's by the Canadian Directorate of History, about the role of the R.C.A.F. in the Aleutian campaign  and the relations of the mixed squadron, his response was; 

L-R: My grandfather, R.C.A.F. F/O Robert W. Lynch 
& a U.S. Bombardier on Kodiak Island.
 Ready to referee a league hockey game. 
Question (M.V. Bezeau): "Why was a detachment of 111F squadron sent forward to Umnak Island in the summer of 1942 to work with the 11th Pursuit?  Was this for training or reinforcement purposes?  What were its duties?"

Response: "It was my understanding, as commander of "A" flight that we were to work with the 11th Pursuit squadron for operational purposes. Our training was accomplished in Anchorage mainly in learning USAF radio procedures.  Our subsequent operational duties on Umnak consisted of aerodrome patrols, shared equally with the 11th Pursuit from dawn to dusk on a daily basis. "

Question (M.V. Bezeau) :   "How did this detachment blend into the 11th Pursuit Squadron?  Did it fully retain it's identity? How were relations?"  

Response: "Pilots are pilots.  Consequently we had no problem blending into the routines of the 11th Pursuit’s operational duties.  We definitely retained our identity and our relations with the Americans could not have been better.”

11th Air Force Memorial along side Merrill Field Airstrip,  Anchorage, Alaska. 

It is always saddens me to see the names of fallen soldiers.  It is the ugly and somber reality of war.  War kills.    I don’t like war.   I don’t.  Yes, even though I write a blog about it.  I like to think that what I write about is not so much about war, as it is about the personal stories of these brave individuals who risked their own selves so that we could live a life of freedom.   I write it as a way to keep their memories alive.  To honor them.  To be the voice that so many veterans wanted to have.  So that people don't forget.   On the flip side,   I can understand that, especially at that time, war was about the survival of either them or us and there is no doubt,  I am glad we came out on top.  I still don’t like it though. Please, can't we all just get along?

As my first full day in Alaska came to a close, I was still numb with disbelief that I was finally there.       I could feel the warmth of my grandfathers smile everywhere I went.  I know how proud he is.  And I feel honored that I am able to take this journey in his name.  The adventure continues on day two with a visit to a downtown market, a tour around Elmendorf Air Force Base, and dinner at the Colonel's house.   Time to force myself to close the daylight blocking curtains and get some rest.  Good night Alaska. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014


After our morning in Anchorage, we headed 75 miles south down the Seward Highway then east along the Portage Glacier Highway port town of Whittier.   Well....what can I say about Whittier.... an interesting dynamic it has.  It is a very tiny town along the Prince William Sound with a population of about 177.   Yes- one hundred and seventy seven people small but packed full of history.  To get there you have to go through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel also known as the Whittier Tunnel.  This 2.5 mile tunnel originally constructed during the years of 1941-1943 cuts through the Maynard Mountain and is the second longest tunnel in North America.  It's single lane accommodates both auto and railway traffic with directional flow controlled by two sophisticated computer systems.   What do you suppose they did way back in the 40's before the grand computer invention? Maybe a flag system?  

En route to Whittier along  the Seward Highway.

A train just having exited Anton Anderson Tunnel. 
 We are waiting to go through the tunnel in the line of cars on the right.

There are a few things that make Whittier so unique.  It is probably most well know as a popular port of call for numerous Alaskan cruises.   Some extra inquiry and you will also discover that this small port town has a ton of history.  During WW2 the U.S. Army constructed a military facility complete with port and railroad. The town eventually became a secret entry point of U.S. Soldiers into Alaska.   Constructed during that time were two large buildings to house the soldiers.  These buildings pretty much make up Whittier.  They are enormous in comparison to the rest of modest town. 

The one building- The Buckner Building was once the largest building in Alaska on its completion in 1953.  It was occupied by U.S. troops until 1960 when the Army left Whittier.  It has been vacant ever since.  Just another example of waste in war- a 14 story building, occupied for only 6 years then completely abandoned never to be lived in again.   Recently, the government owned building is now under consideration for either restoration or demolition.   Speaking only as a measly outsider, it would be nice to see something come of the building, if salvageable.   With the port and the breathtaking backdrop of the glaciers and the mountains, it makes for a perfect little piece of nordic paradise.

Buckner Building

The other building- The Begich Towers, still functions as housing for a majority of residents who live in Whittier.  Interestingly, this building also serves as the city's business center.  The first and fourteenth floor are zoned commercial and the rest house many of the towns businesses including the police department and medical offices.   Of course you can imagine how convenient and warm this makes things for the residents living in the 196 units during the cold winter months.  There is even a tunnel that connects the towns only school of 37 little eager beavers of all grade levels.  Brilliant.

Begich Towers

Amongst all this history and tucked away next to the town's convenience store and hotel is a superb little Museum- The Prince William Sound Museum.  This 1000 sq ft  museum is packed with some well done and interesting 22 exhibits that outline Whittiers unique history including displays about the Cold War and WW2 as well as the 1964 Earthquake that destroyed much of the towns lumber trade.  With it's $3 adult admission and its proximity to the ever so busy cruise terminal, it is well worth your while to visit.

Top- The Puk-Uk gang (as Allison likes to call us),
 bottom left-right- Anchor Inn, one of the towns only
hotels, and good Alaskan brew. 

If you want to learn more about Whittier start watching my new favorite show, a Destination America series titled Railroad Alaska where Whittier is one of the shows featured towns.   It's  an Alaskan town of laid back but hard working, down home good all around people.  My kind of place... well with one exception, brrrrrr.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

First Stop

Although I was staying in a downtown hotel, I found Anchorage streets to be rather empty of both cars and people.  A light drizzle fell on me as I enjoyed my cool morning fourteen block walk to breakfast to meet the rest of my, now 2015, Aleutian voyage ship mates.  I arrived early, snapping pictures along the way and really observing the life of the city.  That is one of my favorite things to do when I travel- to sit back and  get immersed in what makes that city, well, that city.   

I walked down historic 4th Avenue, past the old Army & Navy store still in business. Passed the preserved and still functioning City Hall, numerous fur trading stores (sans a single protester), the Nesbett courthouse flanked by two totems, too many to count tourist shops,  and ended up at Resolution Park overlooking the Cook Inlet.  The Cook Inlet of course, named after Captain Cook, the famed explorer who explored this passageway in 1778 aboard the HMS Resolution. On a clear day, from the parks boardwalk, you can see North America's tallest mountain- Mt. McKinley.    

Our group met at the most popular breakfast spot in town, the Snow City Cafe.   I had arranged a breakfast with author Mary Breu.   Mary's book- Last Letters From Attu, is about her great aunt- Etta James, who was a school teacher on the far westward island or Attu when on June 7th 1942, 1,200 Japanese first invaded.  Etta's husband was senselessly killed and one week later she was taken to Japan where she was held captive for four years.  In the book Mary tells the story, almost through the eyes of her aunt, based on numerous family documents, letters and photos from Etta's personal collection that were eventually handed down to her.  A fabulous read. 

Deadliest Catch breakfast- one salmon cake, one crab cake benedict. Delish

With our full and satisfied bellies we made our way on foot, through the middle of a gay pride rally that just so happen to be right outside the restaurant.  I was actually thrilled to see that even in the most northern state there was a place for people to express themselves for who there are.   Rock on.  

Our Crew
L-R Back Row- Allison- retired vet, Peter- an Alaskan, Christian- from Italy
L-R Front Row- Col. John Cloe- Alaskan tour leader, John's wife, Michel from the Netherlands.

We headed east towards the Alaska Veterans Museum.  This non profit organization has been around since 2001 but the museum on 4th Avenue opened its doors in 2011. It is packed with history and artifacts of Alaska in war.  They have also had numerous popular exhibits displayed at the Anchorage Museum.  That is actually how it all began for them.  Its mission is to create a space for the inspiration, remembrance, and preservation of veteran stories and their sacrifices.  It also serves as a place to educate the general public through the collection, presentation,  and exhibition of artifacts, personal accounts and historical facts relating to the history of Alaskan Veterans.  Current Executive Director, Col. Suellyn Wright Novak was a wealth of knowledge and a tremendous hostess.  Her passion for history was infectious.  

Executive Director Suellyn Wright Novak is in the middle.
 She is energetically telling us the story of a Japanese model 94, 37 mm anti tank gun
recovered from Attu Island.

Top Right-Left: Shipmate Allison Everett and I outside the museum entrance,
 diorama of the U.S. Navy landing on Attu Island May 11th,  1943,  11th Air Force on Adak Island,
USS Grunion exhibit. USS Grunion sank around Kiska Island,   July 1942.

The one thing I noticed, not just that museum but all four of the museums I visited during my Alaska trip, was the absence of the Canadian piece to the forgotten war.  Each museum had one item; a flag, a patch, a photo... but just one.   It was very apparent that the Canadian involvement was recognized, valued and appreciated but simply lacked representation. Suellyn even mentioned the history of the allied involvement during her tour before she even knew I was Canadian.   She was very excited to find out that my grandfather was part of it and was eager to bring his story into her space.  Uh oh,  I smell another project...

This was the R.C.A.F. badge that was on display in the museum.
 It was housed appropriately with the 11th Air Force.

And perhaps another under recognized persons in the war were the local villagers.  This statue represents the Alaska Territorial Guard.  This group of local volunteers were a crucial piece in guarding such a vast land against enemy attack.  This statue stands guard outside the museum.

Alaska Territorial Guard Monument.
"During WW2 under leadership of Maj. "Muktuk" Marston and 21 paid staff, 6 368 volunteers
from 7 Native ethnic groups and European Americans, whose collective ages ranged from 12-30 years
of age, including some 30 women, watched the norther shores of Alaska for enemy movement and
were instrumental in the battle for Attu, a foreign war battle fought on domestic soil.
  In commemorations of their personal sacrifices for our

If you find yourself in Anchorage, this is a must see.  And if you do not find yourself in Anchorage but would still like to support the Museum, you can become a member or simply make a donation.   Great first stop!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Land Of The Midnight Sun

It has been a few weeks since returning from part one of my Alaskan voyage.  What a whirlwind of a month and a half it has been.   I needed some time for the realization of  this whole experience to sink in.  It was an incredible trip which I will now start to share.   When I started this blog a few years ago, and began my research into my Grandfathers war experience, I had no idea where it would take me.  Well, actually that is not an entire truth, I knew the direction I wanted it to go, I just never imagined the scale in which it would manifest.   And really, I still do not.   This is, by no way, over.   It does not matter how many times these things repeatedly happen in my life, it never ceases to amaze me when my visions comes to fruition.    When I look back in wonderment, the one common denominator, is the presences of an undeniable gut feeling that whispers "This is the way".  And it is from that feeling that I move forward.  If I was to collect a dollar every time I received the look of doubt and disbelief from my friends and family when I tell them an idea or feeling I have.... boy, I would be one wealthy women.   I mean some of my aspirations are out there and seem so unrealistic or unattainable that, heck, even my own logical mind tells me I am pushing it sometimes.  But it is a darn good thing my gut speaks louder (most of the time)  because  it has gotten me to this point so far.    Anyways, on to the juicy details of my adventure.  Since there is so much to write about, I thought I would break it up through out the next few weeks.  So keep checking back.   

Flying into Anchorage.

We landed in Anchorage 3 hours late, around 11 p.m., after a long flight delay.  (United Airlines, I will spare you the embarrassment and refrain from sharing with everyone the travel nightmare I experienced with your  It was daylight still which was nice in a way because it gave me a chance to see some of the city on my taxi ride to the hotel.  It was after midnight when I checked in, and even after 19 hours of traveling I was still up for a walk.  So off I went.  At 1 a.m.,  I walked four downtown blocks to get myself some bottles of water. Crazy.  The streets in Anchorage were spattered with near by club goers.  Along the way, I passed several people, although slightly sketchy, walking on the sidewalk.  When I finally got back to my room I had to force myself to close the curtains so I could go to sleep.  The continual daylight was actually one of the hardest things to get used to.

View from my hotel room around midnight.

When I awoke bright and early the next morning, I opened the curtains only to find the same amount of sunlight shining as when I had shut the drapes 5 hours earlier.    It is a workaholics dream.     I mean, my body is so in tune with its circadian rhythm that I instantly feel sleepy as soon as the sun goes down and the opposite when the sun rises no matter how late I go to sleep.  That being said, the sun never went down so I never felt sleepy unless I intentionally made the room dark and laid down.  If I lived there year long I could really envision myself working non-stop during the summer.  Obviously, the flip side to this is the amount of darkness Alaskans experience when it is winter, in which case during that time I would most likely become bear like and hibernate eventually leading to my unemployment and homelessness.  Not so good.  

In the morning, as I sat fireside sipping my java in the impressive Anchorage Sheraton lobby,  I began a long conversation with one of our United flight attendants who unnecessarily  kept trying to apologize about the previous night's flight debacle.  She was very sweet.  Even gave us free beer during the flight to try to smooth things over... until they ran out not even half way though the seven hour trip...Yep.  It turns out her grandfather was a WW2 vet.  Although not in Alaska she still had some great stories to share.  Also, on this morning, the lobby was filled with many members of the Air Force all running around in their flight suits. Very neat.  They were in Anchorage for a training at Elmendorf Air Force Base located close by.  Talk about adding some authentic ambiance to my trip.

Here is my Papa with his flight suit.  
Looks like he is just securing the parachute to complete his ensemble. 

After that it was back to my room for a quick shower and off I went, on foot, to the next adventure- meeting the rest of my shipmates...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Eagle Has Landed

In Anchorage that is.   After a three hour delay on the tarmac last night, I finally made it safely to Anchorage and the land of the midnight sun.   It was not until we started our take off that it really hit me This journey that I have been dreaming of was actually going to happen.  As I looked out the window of the plane all I could see was my Papa, flying his plane alongside ours,  smiling at me from the cockpit of his own P-40.  That is when it dawned on me what I had forgotten to pack- Kleenex.

Off to breakfast with Author- Mary Breu. Stay tuned for more details....