Daily Archives: 2009-09-19

Ice Berg Straight Ahead – Glacier Bay

I wasn’t able to sleep in so I decided to wander up to the top deck incase there were any whales to watch. Apparently, between 4 and 6am we were passing through the Icy Strait that had prime wildlife watching opportunities. What they forgot is that at that time it is still dark so even if there were things to see, it would have been impossible unless you had night vision.

I grabbed up some breakfast and settled into a quiet corner near the front of the ship. I was surrounded by giant windows from floor to ceiling so I decided this would be a good place to set up shop. I began to feel a little cold so I took a stroll down to the blanket guy on the Lido deck. He cheerfully gave me three of the red tartan patterned woolen blankets. I tucked them around myself back at my table and waited.

Several hours went by as I watched people come and go out of the dining room. The sky brightened and now I could make out the edges of the mountains through the rain. Yes, it was raining so now I was extra glad that I had secured a spot inside. I watched the little speed boat with the National Park Rangers pull up beside our slowing ship. Not long after that the Ranger commentary began through the loud speakers throughout the public areas of the ship. It was quite informative and most certainly enriched my experience of Glacier Bay.

When it finally came time to start seeing the good stuff, I called Darren who was still sleeping down in the room. I had missed this the first time I went to Alaska and didn’t want him to have that same misfortune. Also, I needed him to bring me my coat. The rangers kept encouraging us to head outside to get a real taste of this magical place. I resisted for a while but when we came upon Margerie Glacier, I decided to brave the elements.

Ofcourse I had seen glaciers before, heck, I even climbed one in New Zealand. But there was something different about this place. I guess the fact that it is so protected and untouched by humans. Its really quite a natural spectacle. There was a feeling of utter beauty that overtook me as I surveyed the huge mountains of ice. The light shade of blue from the crevaces of the giant shards almost seemed to glow. It was a sight to behold.

We were lucky enough to witness the calving of the glacier which means ice falls off the face into the water below. To add to the immensity of the moment is a loud crack also known as “white thunder”. I was mesmerized sitting patiently waiting to experience the great glaciers move. It was a feeling not unlike staring up at the night sky waiting to see a shooting star.

Though the weather was cold and rainy, we did get a few minutes of sun. There were lots of little ice “bergs” floating around in the turquoise water, some with seals lounging on top. I was also quite impressed at the magnificent wispy clouds tumbling over and draping themselves around the mountains. How could something make me feel so small and insignificant yet so honored to be connected to this level of grandeur? It was neat.

In all the excitement, I ate myself up a storm. Ug. I know what this means. To the gym. But not before I retired back to my cabin to have myself a nap. All this fresh glacial air was exhausting! I cuddled into my bed and was out for the next couple hours.

When I woke, I hit the gym for a solid 2.5 hours all the while keeping my eyes trained on the water. I was able to see several seals, whales, and many kinds of birds through the windows in front of my treadmill. It wasn’t too hard to locate them as the dedicated nature photographers out on deck would all run over to a spot and point their cameras when there was something to be seen.

I worked myself out so hard that I developed a blister on my toe. Ouch. I really need to get to the bottom of this weight situation. I feel like no matter what I do, I am not losing but gaining. I met a passenger onboard with medical background who said it may be a hormonal thing. I hope its just something that I can handle myself because I won’t be anywhere near my doctor for some time.

I dressed up for dinner which happened to be the second of the formal nights for this portion of the cruise. At supper I inquired from Tim, one of my favorite servers, just what was in my favorite red cabbage dish I had been eating religiously every night. He went away for a while then returned with some good news. I could eat till my hearts content because there was no fat in it, just some red wine vinegar and sugar.

After dinner, I met up with a younger party crowd but only lasted about an hour. I am exhausted and have to get some real sleep. Most of these people are nearing the end of their trip so can afford to party hard. I, on the other hand, have a long way to go yet.

Grateful for the surreal color of glacier water.

Posted in North America | 2 Comments

Making Progress – Skagway

This morning I was up and at’er at 7am. After a small snack to kick start my metabolism, I did some work on the treadmill. Then I hit the stretching class which is light and airy but I like the group energy. Next I threw some weights around and pushed some more cardio before having a protein filled omelette. I was sweaty and red faced as I had run from the gym to get to the breakfast station before it closed. The egg dude seemed amused and I was touched when he took the initiative to design me a special dish according to what he thought I needed.

I was in great spirits as I headed into the small (and I mean tiny) town of Skagway. I am pretty positive I have been here before and remembered the train and old fashioned buildings. It reminded me a lot of Fort Edmonton except is nestled into the mountains. Even though it was overcast and rainy, I took lots of photos as there were so many pretty scenes.

I kind of purposely set out on my own today so as to get my missions accomplished. Not like yesterday. First thing, I found several stores with headphones. In fact, the Radio Shack had a real selection and carried my favorite brands. After much deliberation, I settled on a new type of SkullCandy ear buds. These ones kind of wrap around the ear which will be perfect while I am working out. The Skagway RadioShack seems to have a sort of flaw in their pricing system as there were lots of different levels and extra options that all cost the same. Needless to say, I got a stylin’ red set with a mic and volume adjust for the same price as their most basic plain jane model. Score.

Next I hit the local grocery store where I found my bottle of detergent. I was tempted to buy these strange new 3-in-1 washer/dryer sheets but I passed. They would be perfect for traveling because of their lightweight and size but I don’t need fabric softener or cling-free. I got a bottle with 30 loads which I know is excessive for a 5 week trip but my fishing buddy Greg and wife are taking half.

Though it had started to drizzle, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was grinning stupidly to everyone who crossed my path. I was feeling happy and excited to get back to the ship and wash some clothes. I don’t know why but it really is the simple things that do it for me. There is really nothing like having freshly cleaned laundry.

After a nice lunch in the dining room where I chose potato pancakes and trout, I went back to the gym. I sweated it out a little, then threw a load in the washer. I donned my swimsuit and headed to the pool for some laps. Still in my robe, I picked up my damp sweet smelling clothes and carted them down the hall to my room.

Darren and I took some cards from the Taboo game I had borrowed from the library to play at dinner. We took turns trying to make the other guess the subject without saying the obvious clues. It was fun and by the end, I figured we were getting pretty good at it. I was happy to have my red cabbage again and it tasted even better with the Alaskan King crab legs that was on offer.

I tried to order the honey-vanilla frozen yogurt that had delighted me at lunch but apparently they were out. The head kitchen dude came to my table to assure me they would make sure they would have it for me tomorrow and every day after that. I wondered if this was such a good thing considering I am trying to lose weight, not gain. It is proving quite difficult to drop pounds when there are so many tasty treats being shoved in your face every five minutes. Darren and I agreed that the “dessert pushers” were relentless and wondered if they got some kind of commission based on the sugar consumption of the passengers.

I am pretty exhausted now and think I should turn in early. Tomorrow we are finally cruising Glacier Bay which is the highlight of this trip. I missed it last time I did this itinerary back in Sept 2001. They cancelled all the good stuff due to 9/11 occurring on Day 2 of our trip. Suffice to say, this cruise has been quite an improvement on my last somber experience with Alaska.

Grateful for being responsible for my own happiness. And clean clothes.

Posted in North America | Leave a comment

Buyers Remorse – Juneau, Alaska

Today’s port was Juneau and I had a mission to accomplish. I wanted to get headphones and pick up laundry detergent. I think I failed on both accounts. I guess I kinda got some headphones but its all for naught because I think I am going to have to take them back. I sit here tired and frustrated beyond belief, wondering how the day ended up this way.

I had the best intentions and even started the day off right with a healthy egg white omlette, fruit and yogurt. It was the first time I had breakfast in the formal dining room and I was quite impressed with the accuracy of the service. I made sure to fill out a comment card so that the server would get credit for his patience with me and my gazillion special requests.

After grabbing up a coffee to go which was right beside the gangway, I pinged my ID card and went out. The day was crisp but it was a lovely view as I wandered towards the downtown. There were mountains everywhere and I was quite impressed by the magnificence of it all. As there were about six ships docked, you can imagine the crowd of cruise goers that were plowing down the narrow streets. There were 4 mega ships in port.

Jewelry, watches, perfume, smoked salmon, and furs seemed to be the things to buy here. Not to mention the loads of souvenir shops that were attempting to “liquidate” now that the season was near over. I barely glanced inside because I had seen all this before. I was not here to buy junk I couldn’t use. But try as I might, I was having trouble finding a decent pair of headphones at a fair price. I bit the bullet and decided that it would be in my best interest to head over to Costco. If they didn’t have anything, then there was a few other big box dept stores nearby that would likely suffice.

Rather than pay twenty dollars for a cab ride, which would clearly defeat the purpose of trying to save some dough, we took the bus. The high energy and humorous driver was well worth the buck fifty it cost to ride the 20 mins out of the center. This guy was small town entertainment at its finest and I really appreciated his spunk.

We jumped off when we were directed by our overzealous driver and headed into Costco where I found one lonely set of ear buds. I hummed and hawed before the iPod section caught my eye. How and why what happened next, I will never know. For some bizarre reason, I impulse bought an iPod touch. It was the silliest thing ever, especially since I barely believe in the one I have which was a gift, not a purchase I consciously made.

Sure it came with a set of headphones. Sure the return policy was solid and I could take it back to any Costco worldwide. Sure the thing connected to wi-fi. Truly, none of those reasons should have inspired me to shell out two hundred bucks on a flimsy piece of proprietary hype. Ug. I had buyers remorse almost immediately. Perhaps that is what drove me to drink.

Darren happens to be one of my beer loving friends, so I thought it would be nice for him to get to see the Alaska Brewery. It just so happened to be around the corner so we bounced in to take the tour. Sample after sample, we tasted them all (8 in total) and though I tasted the variance, I still don’t love beer. I did, however, like the pretty labels and the bubbly staff who were working there.

After drinking up a storm, Darren refused to make the second stop to find detergent. I was a little peeved because I had stopped at the brewery solely for him. I begrudgingly got back on the bus and wondered just how I was going to get my laundry done over the next month and a half. I couldn’t even secure a box of soap suds!

I tried to distract myself from my conundrum with my new toy but it wouldn’t let me play. It wouldn’t even let me turn it on until I installed iTunes on my netbook! I groaned as a second wave of buyers regret washed over me. This kind of silly game playing is precisely the reason I try to stay away from Apples sticky technological web.

I decided to just try to enjoy my small Alaskan mountain town public transit ride. The locals were a bit of a gong show and I noticed that a lot of the kids were with child or awkward gangster wanna be’s. I was glad that I didn’t have to endure this type of painful drama on a regular basis.

After hopping off the bus, I hightailed it back to the ship for lunch in hopes that maybe a spot of food would raise my mood. Turns out it didn’t work at all. I even had half a cookie but no dice. Infact, I felt worse for it. I wondered why my face was so flushed and if maybe I was having a reaction to something I had eaten. Knowing full well that I have no allergies to speak of, it finally dawned on me that it must have been the beer. It wasn’t that I drank a lot, but now that I am a non-drinker, my tolerance is really low.

I decided to sleep it off. I layed down for a few minutes with no success then popped up to head back into town. I was determined to get this new contraption working if it was the last thing I did. I seemed to have forgotten all about the laundry at this point.

I headed up to the public library in speculation that they would have some sort of internet set up. I was right and they had several terminals as well as free wi-fi. After a good fifteen minutes of trying to connect, I gave up. I waited at the equally slow elevator to head into the downtown to find a better connection. After wandering around and trying several hot-spots, my frustration was intensifying. I could get low signals but at this rate it would take me hours to download the program.

I finally ducked into a coffee shop which promised me a secure line if I bought something from them. I sipped my Americano as I scanned the room for a power outlet. Would you believe that every socket in the whole building was covered save for TWO! And of course, those two were being used. After inquiring as to how long the power hogs would be, I plopped down in a chair to wait. As my battery was at only 7 percent, I wasn’t going to start the download only to have it shut down half way through.

Finally, I was able to get it all figured out and got the silly little black rectangle to turn on. It was a bittersweet victory as I I realized I had run out of time and to hightail it back to the ship. I didn’t even have a chance to play with much less adjust the settings. As I navigated the now almost empty streets at top speed, I made the decision to work out immediately when I got back. Surely this would bring my stress levels down.

After a solid workout, I headed up for a late dinner. I found the quietest corner I could and ate a whole lotta lettuce, shrimp, and fruit. I felt a lot better and realized that rather than complicate things, I should choose the straightforward path. I suppose buying the new techie toy was perhaps not the best choice. I should have just stuck with getting the headphones. Lesson learned…when in doubt, K.I.S.S.

Grateful for simplicity.

Posted in North America | Leave a comment