Friday, June 13, 2014

There and Back Again…well, back again, anyway

(I plan to post more about the past couple of weeks, in installments.)

I am slowly recovering from my vacation.

Yes, I took a vacation from sitting around and playing on the internet (at least, that's what most people who know me think I do all day). I didn't really need a vacation, mind you, since being an artist, amateur cook, and writer means that I have a fairly easy pace, physically, and vacating this would imply losing that relaxed atmosphere.

And so it did.

Let me begin at the proper place: I will go to the beginning.

I can't afford to travel. I lack both money and health to make any but the smallest efforts to leave town. But my best friend told me, some years back, that she wanted me to experience a cruise before we were both too mangled to enjoy one, and she was going to set aside money and time to show me what she enjoyed about being on a big, floating, resort community. I was largely unconvinced, and told her quite honestly that I wasn't interested in visiting any steamy Caribbean or Mexican beach locales (I truly hate to sweat, since I learned that my own perspiration causes me to break out in blistering hives), and that the only way she'd get me on a cruise ship was if it were going toward some lovely glacial palace, such as Iceland or Alaska.

Astonishingly, she took me at my word, and started shopping for an Alaska trip.

Now, this is somebody whose sensitivity to the cold has long been noted. She has damage to many joints, a degenerative nerve disorder, and, even without her ailments, has long held a general hatred for temperatures below 75º Fahrenheit (about 3 degrees above where I start to sweat while sitting quietly). We're not exactly compatible on that front.

Take into account also, I am most happy to keep company with two, perhaps three people at a time in quiet surroundings, and she loves the crowds and the bustle of parties and casinos.

In fact, almost the only thing we have in common, besides our friendship, is that we need handicapped-accessible facilities. And even in that, we differ by degree. In that, I am the lucky one.

Knowing that we could never share a room in which both of us would get any sleep, she made arrangements for me to have my own cabin, all to my little old lonesome, while she then proceeded to make room in hers for her niece, nephew, and (informal) foster son.

This is not a cheap venture. I knew it wouldn't be. I did my best to dissuade her from actually booking the trip, because, well, let's be honest – I don't like to be beholden to anybody, and because I didn't want to be a burden to my best friend. And, yet, here I was, allowing her to make plans to take me to Alaska to see glaciers and feast decadently upon salmon.

So, when she said it would cost an extra arm and a leg to fly or take the train, I didn't cry out about driving from western Illinois all the way to Seattle in three days and four nights…fortunately, she discovered that we'd have an extra few days, since the weekend before our cruise was to begin turned out to be Memorial Day weekend, a four-day weekend for federal employees (she is one), so she no longer needed to worry about missing any work Monday. This meant there would be opportunities for me to get out and straighten my legs a few times each day without costing us time.

We left Saturday morning.

We had packed a couple of tents.

Yeh. Tents. Because being a gimp on the road isn't hard enough unless you have to hike to the outhouse at oh-dark-thirty.

But that was where our cash flow had us.

I had spent a month researching where the cheap (read: free) campsites were, across South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Washington State. We were going to need all the cash we could keep on hand, for (a) parking in Seattle for a week, and (b) shopping trips ashore during the cruise (because I so very much love shopping for souvenirs, she said with not-so-subtle sarcasm). Motels were not in our range, it seemed.

As for my own finances, my sister very kindly gave me a substantial birthday check, intending that I spend it on some special excursions ashore from the cruise. I had enough to see precisely what she recommended, with a small amount left over, so that I could buy postcards (my idea of the perfect souvenir) and a handful of inexpensive gifts for the folks back home. Mom gave me a little extra, including a small wad of cash, and I packed a mess of food, water, bedding, and two wardrobes: one for grubby road-and-campground, and one for semi-civilized cruise society. I was as prepared as I could be, for a cheap road trip and a not-so-cheap cruise.

I remembered to pack my exercise "bike" on the truck,

much good did that do me, when I boarded the ship without it.

Forgotten also was my favorite cane. I had to buy a new, collapsible one in Buffalo, Wyoming's WalMart. And I did use it pretty much constantly.

Let the limping begin.

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