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Saturday, June 04, 2005
Kathy's post about cruise ships reminded me of our ferry ride to Alaska.
Today is our official anniversary. Nine years ago, we stepped foot on the rock that holds the lovely inside town of Ketchikan. But this story isn't about Ketchikan, it's about what happened before we arrived there.
We drove to Prince Rupert and boarded the ferry there. It's 90 miles from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan, which translates to a six hour journey. No, don't bother with the Gilligan's Island theme music. We really did reach our destination.
The night before, we pulled into Prince Rupert. It really is a gorgeous area. It wasn't until we'd hit Alaska, that I learned Prince Rupert is an island, too. Most people don't realize it either. The bridge isn't all that long. I thought it was over a river. Nope. Prince Rupert is an island. Nine years ago, the first thing I noticed, besides the huge, gorgeous trees was the smell. There's a pulp mill there. It's a very distinct odor.
We'd been on the road for five days and I was sick of sodas. I wanted water. A tall glass of clear, ice cold water. Because it was almost 9 p.m. when we hit Prince Rupert, most of the cafes were closed or closing. We found a Subway. I ordered my sandwich, chips and water. I was handed a cup and directed to the soda fountain. I filled the cup with ice chips that made my mouth water. I had a severe case of travel food fuzz on my tongue. Then I found the button for water.
My eyes widened in horror. In the middle of Subway I had to fight my tears. Normally, I'm not a crier, but yellow water after five days of heavy traveling will make the toughest hen an on demand crier. I wanted clear water. You know, like in the bottled water type of crystal clear water. Not water that looked like it was siffoned off the local pond.
Anyway, we went back to the hotel and I checked the ferry schedule. We were supposed to leave the next night at about midnight. My hubby and I talked it over. We wanted on the first ferry out of dodge, or in this case, Prince Rupert. Luckily, there was one leaving that night. Yay!
I made a call to our future Alaskan landlord and asked if it would be a problem if we arrived a day early. Not a problem.
So, the room we'd checked into less than two hours earlier, we checked out of and headed to the ferry terminal.
We walked around outside. Even at that time of night, it was light out. Eagles dotted the landscape. Otters were playing in the water. All of us Cheechakos were ohhing and ahhing. We talked to a man and his wife who had an RV. They were boarding the ferry to explore the inside passage and then head up to the rest of Alaska. They'd worked all their lives for their six week Alaskan vacation.
I almost felt guilty. A month before we hit the Prince Rupert ferry terminal, we'd had no plans to live in Alaska. We knew we wanted to move, but we weren't sure to where. We decided we'd move to the first place that offered both, my husband and myself, fulltime jobs. That place happened to be Ketchikan. Sure, I'd dreamed of Alaska all my life, but my husband was really hesitant. The kids weren't all that thrilled either. One had just graduated middle school and the other one at home was approaching middle school. No, they weren't what one would call tickled pink.
So, we're chatting with the others who are getting ready to board the ferry. Meaning the other smokers who don't want to hang out inside the terminal, because we were invaded by a sports team of very noisy pre-teens and teens.
And there he is...the world traveler. The supposed Alaskan sourdough, who knows all and doesn't mind revealing his wonderful travel tips to those of us that are beneath his genius mind. My first questionable clue was his obvious lack of intimacy with soap and water. Just because I refused to drink the yellow water didn't mean I was above using it to wash the road grime from me.
When the ferry finally arrive, an hour late, we boarded. Actually, Mr. World Traveler and his equally filthy sidekick boarded. We were in our truck and drove onto the Taku. After we parked, we had to leave the deck and go to the top. We went to the observatory deck, where almost every one else had migrated to. That is everyone, except the ones who had also booked a berth.
Mr. World Traveler and Mr. Filthy Sidekick were there. Come on, if they can't afford soap and water, did you actually expect them to spring for a berth? Me, neither.
Every word out of Mr. World Traveler's mouth was uttered at a volume where everyone on board could hear him. Yes, even the crew in the engine rooms.
The kids and I rolled out our sleeping bags and tried to sleep. Good Lord, it was cold. Coming from the high desert of Nevada, temps that barely reached 60 degrees was nippy. The joint in my hip ached from the cold. The kids finally fell to sleep. I dozed every few minutes. Dear hubby had to explore the ferry. He was like a kid in a candy store. What made it move at so many knots? Would they let him see the engines? Would they let him steer the big old boat? Obviously, he didn't get to see anything or steer it either.
Sometime during the night, the crew closed all the blindes in the observation deck. They said the light reflected off the windows and back into the Captains eyes. Okay, that's not a good thing. Yeah, close them. By that time, the world traveler and his sidekick were snoring and drooling. Yes, they were doing both...in public. And during the night, they even passed gas.
During the early morning hours, dear hubby woke me. "Come with me," he said. A new day was dawning. Finally, I was able to see the landscape of this new land that was to be our new home. Islands littered the watered. Giant spruce were everywhere. A soft mist fell around us. Breath taking doesn't do justice to the scenery.
I tried to blink away the tears. Over the decades, I'd imagined Alaska, but nothing had prepared me for the reality. I inhaled a lung full of the cleanest, crispest air I'd ever breathed. It was tinged with the odor of trees, flowers, wild grass, moisture and salt water. The air was alive. We woke the kids. Others were stirring.
The world travelers woke. The blindes were still lowered. Instead of lifting them and using the straps to hold them up, our world travelers ripped them from the snaps and tried to shove the bottom behind the top to make them stay open.
Before they could destroy too many blinds, the crew came in and opened the rest. We watched as they shoved them up the window, then snapped the strap to keep them up. The world travelers had the decency to appear embarrassed. My family and I watched them. Their cover was blown. They knew even less about Alaska and the ferry system than we had.
I heard my husband snicker. Then a giggle escaped from me. Before long, all of us were laughing. Tears running down our cheeks. The world travelers slunk out of the room.
Within minutes, we'd also left the room. We wanted to see more, because the ferry had rounded another island and Ketchikan lay before us. In all her wonderful glory, she opened her arms for us.
Because we had a vehicle, we couldn't walk off the ferry, so we drove off. But as soon as we could, my husband pulled over and we touched Alaska. Tears filled my eyes, a smile covered my face and my heart sang. After all those years of searching, we were finally home.
What does this have to do with hen lit and hen lit writers? Everything. That's what the stories are about that we write. People, even after the age of forty, who find what every human strives for...peace with who they are and where they are, physically and emotionally.
Happy hen lit reading.