Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tourism, Day Seven: Juneau What Happens Next

Sunday Morning, 1 June, 2014. I was up at a little after dawn, having slept wonderfully in my nice, king-sized rocking cradle.

Saturday was still a little fuzzy in my head, since I had been trying to get my knees to develop into some part of a pair of sea legs, and that took quite a bit of effort – and a bit of chemistry.

I'm not much of a social creature, so, when events on the ship were scheduled, I made my appearances to satisfy my friend that she was not wasting her money dragging me onto a ship, but, to be honest, I'd have probably been just as happy on the ferry. Sure, the ship was big and glamorous (the length of two city blocks and change, with all the bells and whistles including an indoor and an outdoor pool, and a full-sized theater), and the meals were in a gorgeous setting,
The view from Breakfast, somewhat past dawn.
but, somehow, life in a floating mall/city was a little too much like my life in the urbs. There was a reason I moved back here to the dingles: I constantly crave solitude, even when it's bad for me. Crowds give me the shakes. (Individual strangers aren't exactly my cuppa, either, but I have learned to get by, there.)

I thought about taking a swim, because the looks on their faces would have been priceless…
True, there were places and times when the masses were thinned out, but, outside my cabin, I had more privacy in my college dormitory than I found here. That's to be expected. It's pretty much why I tried to politely let my friend off the hook for the promise she had made, to get me onto a cruise.

Sometimes, though, it's not a bad thing to let your adamant friends remain adamant. At least she's still my friend (I think. She has a very busy schedule, any more, what with a full-time job and full-time grad school). And, we got to see why my brother and his wife were so enamored of the largest of the United States.

I have to admit, the approach to Juneau is much more spectacular than that to my home town.

It's fan-damn-tastic! The hours it took to come the rest of the way inland, I was in awe.

I mean, just look at their open space!
We came into harbor a little before eleven a.m., and were allowed to debark less than an hour after that. They had buses waiting to take us to the touristy-business center, where all the souvenir shops were, and where people could make the connections necessary for their various shore excursions.

I had booked and paid for (in advance), a trip via tram to the top of Mount Roberts. My friend made arrangements on shipboard, to go up at the same time, with the young 'uns in tow.

Let me make another thing clear: I'm acrophobic. I get nervous climbing a two-step footstool. This, to me, was HUGE act of derring-do.

A hard climb for this view…because the ramp to the tram was, like, dozens of steps.

But at the end of the tram ride (not the very peak of the mountain – that was a hike I wasn't fit to take), I was well-rewarded for my steel nerves (heh).

A father and son team of artists were working on a segment of a totem pole, and took the opportunity to explain to the small crowd that the low man on a real totem pole was the most important character in the work, whether it was a story pole or one for a family.  

Father and son, demonstrating the art of totem carving. No smart-ass remarks. They were good.
After enjoying watching them work for a while, I tried to catch up with my companions, but, instead, found myself wandering the gift shop, examining (wait for it!) post cards. I did find a few nice, affordable gifts for family and friends, but also spent about $20 on those magical bits of archival photographic evidence that somebody had, once upon a time, been in a gift shop in Alaska. (Or, to paraphrase a more recent remark, "Postcards, or it didn't happen.")

I did explore the mountainside while my friends wandered up the trail. Among other things, I discovered a whole great honkin' mess of pine pollen all over everything, a greenish-yellow snow dusting the landscape. Plus, flowers. Lots of these little guys, surrounded by the nastiest-looking thorny brambles I'd seen outside my own psyche. I think somebody told me they were salmonberries. 
Salmonberries? Hmm. How do the fish swim up the mountainsides for them?
Anyway, flowers unofficially labeled, I took my postcards down the mountainside again, just about lunch time, and my friend, her nephew, and I decided to explore the souvenir shops, and see if we could use some of those coupons in our booklets. 

To some small degree, I wanted to slip away on my own, simply because I didn't want to keep hearing how [expletive deleted]ing cold Alaska was, as my friend seemed to have little else to contribute, at the time, to our conversation. But to a greater degree, I wasn't feeling all that hotsy-totsy, myself. Due to the stress of having tried to keep my balance on a moving deck, my knees were beginning to show real signs of strain. So, while they continued to prowl the shops in search of bargains, I texted my friend to let her know I was heading back to the ship, for my favorite pain-killing drugs, and lunch.

When I arrived in my room, Adi had left me this surprise:

I felt almost guilty moving it over to the chair, to let it sit while I took a short nap.

When I awoke, I peered out the window to see a parade of small float-planes landing. I felt almost as giddy as when I was still very small and my parents would take us out to sit beside Midway Airport in Chicago to watch the big jets come and go. I think I waved at every plane. Of course, I may have been dreaming that part.

Where is Herve Villechaize when you need him?

While I waited for the rest of the gang to return, I spent another half hour soaking my poor legs in the hot tub – this time, out on the open sun deck, and not by the indoor pool. The cool air was refreshing as I got out and made my way back to my cabin, to dress and ready myself for supper with the gang.

After supper, all I really wanted to do was to enjoy the scenery as we floated past it. Fortunately, since we were far enough north to have vestiges of daylight until roughly 2 a.m., I had ample opportunity to do that. Still, at the request of my friend, I did attempt to make it through the evening's stage show. As I recall, it was a musical performance, and…well… I can't recall much. I must have been very tired.

We floated past a LOT of this sort of scenery before dark finally fell…
Also, I had booked a train ride to take in the morning. So I did, actually, get to sleep before dark.

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