The Therapy Journals of the Fat-Headed Klingon Woman

One woman's journey to becoming Her True Self

A Cold Rainy Day Can’t Stop the Good Times! July 1, 2015

Filed under: Adventures in Gainful Employment,Alaska Summer — DDKlingonGirl @ 9:35 pm
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Hello all!  Time to catch up on the adventures I’ve had on my days off.  It’s been three weeks since this next adventure, and unfortunately some of the details will escape me, but the important part is I had fun, right? Of course it is.  Here we go…

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June 9, on my day off it was cold and rainy, but I wanted to take advantage of the time I had.  I took one of several tours that starts here from the lodge instead of having to ride the bus an hour to Talkeetna. It was really a cute tour- a covered wagon ride!  They picked us up in front of the lodge…

I can't remember the horses' names right now but I THINK one of them was Snorty.

I can’t remember the horses’ names right now but I THINK one of them was Snorty.

…and off we went.  The first stop was at an overlook which would have had an unparalleled view of Mt. McKinley, had it been a clear day.  Instead we got a still-beautiful view of the cloudy, mist-covered valley and the trees bright with rain.  It was kind of magical.

Down in the Vaaaaaalley!

Down in the Vaaaaaalley!

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We continued on.  One of the other guests on the tour noticed that the horses were working so hard and creating so much heat there was steam coming off of them.  Not that they were really working terribly hard.  Their full strength could pull about five times the weight of the wagon we were in.  We came to the main part of the tour, where we met three really special characters:  Lucky, Baby, and He Whose Name I Can’t Remember.

They were shaggy but cute.  We would get quite up close and personal later. :)

They were shaggy but cute. We would get quite up close and personal later. :)

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First we all gathered around the gold panning trough for a turn at panning for gold.  Our guide, Monty, demonstrated the panning technique.  Each of us were given a little plastic gold pan with a small amount of rock and gravel in it and allowed to try our hand at it.  I had seen it done before, and actually own a gold pan exactly like the one we were using, which I got when I went to Colorado as a kid.  Each pan was guaranteed to have a few flecks of placer gold in it, and sure enough, mine had some in the bottom after Monty had helped me do it right.  (read: did it for me.)  While his wife Nina was conducting the next part of the tour with us, Monty fished the gold out of each of our pans and laminated it to a card that we got to keep:

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While Monty was laminating the cards, Nina was helping each of us prepare a s’more treat around the fire they had burning under a gazebo with log seats around it.  While we ate them and enjoyed the fire, she told us about a few of the different plants and flowers around us.  The s’more was tasty, and the fire smelled so good!

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While we were eating our snack, I was looking around at all the amazing examples of antlers and horns they had sitting around.  Little did I know what they had in store for us with those.  It began with Nina asking who had a special occasion, like an anniversary.  There were three couples on the tour with me- two who were old friends and neighbors from Georgia, and one couple from Bermuda.  So one of them had an anniversary not too far in the future, and it turned out that they made them wear the moose antlers and try to get a kiss.

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I was quite pleased I was on the tour alone and didn’t have any occasion coming up, until I realized they were going to get everyone under the antlers, one way or another, so of course I ended up with my turn.

Am I not the cutest little girl-moose ever?? :)

Am I not the cutest little girl-moose ever?? :)

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So then we got to the part of the tour I had heard much about.  Nina gave us a piece of graham cracker to hold in our mouth for the caribou to take from us, and we got our picture taken “kissing” a caribou.  See?  I told you we got up close and personal later.

Pucker up, Sugar Lips! :)

Pucker up, Sugar Lips! :)

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After the Caribou Kissing, we returned to the lodge.  My friend Courtney and I decided to go ahead and do the bus ride thing, and went to Talkeetna for supper and a little roaming.  We walked all around the vie, played by the train, took some silly pictures, and finally got back to the lodge on almost the last bus of the night.

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Stay tuned for the next adventure:  Courtney and I take the Three Rivers Jet Boat tour.

Until next time,

D.

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Changes, Starting Over, and Above All Staying In the Moment June 29, 2015

Hello, all!  Greetings from Alaska after a bit of a dry spell.  I have so much to tell you, it is hard to know where to start.  I know I am behind on sharing my adventures and tours on my days off, and if you follow me on Facebook too, you know I have fallen somewhat silent there as well.  I thought I would try to explain.  I have been under a crazy amount of stress here.  In short:  roommate troubles.  My roommate and I never really clicked.  We barely talked at all, but I knew she wanted one of us to move, and I assumed it was because I snore.  After a lot of tension, non-communication, assumption and talking to everybody but each other about the problem, she finally moved out yesterday without saying a word, and I was filled with relief and joy. Right up to the point where I got a new roommate the same night.  I was distraught, terrified I was going to make someone else as miserable as my previous roommate had appeared to be, and when my new roomie came back and found me in tears, I tried to explain what I had been through and why I was so upset.  She was very understanding about it all and went about unpacking her belongings and settling in.

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So this morning I asked her if she slept, and she said she did, and I told her I had been afraid I would keep her awake and miserable as I assumed my previous roommate had been.  That’s when she told me I didn’t even snore.  At least not last night.  She said she heard me breathing, but not loud enough to disturb her or anything, and so it appears we will be fine, and the fear and other negative feelings I have inflicted upon myself and allowed to be inflicted upon me by my previous roommate will no longer plague me, and in fact seem to have been largely unnecessary.

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So.  Now I must get back to the business of enjoying my time here.  It appears that I will survive, despite how incredibly long three months seems.  Ok, two and a half months, and that sounds much better.  I am about to complete Week 8 of 19, and I have spent way too much time here in unhappiness.  I have been trying to figure out if I could ever live here permanently, and how to go about making that happen, and I have been wondering if I will go back to my previous job when I go home or try to find some other path, and within all that searching and wondering, I have allowed myself to be distracted from enjoying the fact that I am HERE NOW.  I have allowed my joy to be stolen by the physical challenges, the emotional difficulties, and the direction I will travel once I have passed through this section of my journey.  I have, as ever, failed to be in the moment!  I am now going to begin again to dedicate myself to enjoying this experience and try not to worry about where the road goes from here.

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With that in mind, here are a couple of pictures of one part of Alaska I have absolutely fallen in love with:  fireweed.  It is a wildflower that grows absolutely everywhere in the summer and it is the most beautiful thing ever.  Interestingly, it reminds me a lot of my favorite wildflower at home, Indian Paintbrush.  So I am not surprised that I love it.  The second picture is fireweed and lupin, another wildflower that I keep intending to photograph and share with my daughter who loves all things wolfy. :)

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I will try to post again tomorrow and share my last few Day Off adventures.  Thanks for staying with me!

Until next time,

D.

 

A Good, Normal Day June 6, 2015

Hello, all! Today is not a day off, nor have I had any unusually exciting adventures.  I just thought it might make sense to talk a little bit about what everyday normal life is like here.  But first, let me just say I am super sad to be missing some of the Ardmore Little Theatre events that are going on in the next little while.  Tonight is the annual meeting and awards dinner.  A year ago at his event, I was honored with the MVP award, which was very special to me.  Tonight they will reveal the shows for the next season and choose new board members.  I hope all my theatre friends know how much I miss them and wish I could be there.  Also coming up is a show I would dearly love to see, a musical revue to benefit a local outreach center.  I know the show will be awesome and the Grace Center will benefit greatly.

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That having been said, back to Alaska.  I am currently seatimageed in an outdoor gathering area known as the Fire Pits.  Guests can sit out here and chat and look at the mountain.  Most of them choose to do so in the evenings after dinner.  The staff light the fires and make s’mores for the guests.  As an employee I am allowed to sit here, but only out of uniform, dressed in normal clothes to appear as if I too were a guest.  This is the first time I have sat here and there is no one else here.  It is partly cloudy and 56 degrees.

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I have to be at work in a liitle over an hour and a half.  In an effort to avoid having to climb the Killer Hill more than once today, I brought my work clothes down with me from my room.  I ate lunch, mailed some letters, and decided to sit here to blog.  I put on makeup this morning, something I don’t usually do.  Also dressed a bit nicer and threw on a necklace and bracelet.  Just for kicks.

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So it occurred to me that most of my friends and family probably don’t have muchof a sense of how a place like this works.  It is a huge operation.  First there is transportation.  Most of the guests who stay here are on organized trips through Princess or Holland America cruiselines.  They arrive via motorcoach, which is a snooty way of saying bus.  Some of them have come all the way here by bus and some of them have come part of the way on the Alaska Railroad.  Sometimes they are here following a cruise and sometimes they are here prior to their cruise.  Employee-wise, transportation consists of bus drivers, shuttle drivers, and expeditors- people who tell the guests where they are supposed to be and when, and help make sure they get there.  They are a bit like sheepherders.  Also, obviously, it includes all the people in offices who plan all those crazy schedules.

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Closely related to Transportation is the Luggage department.  These people blow my mind  They sort and deliver hundreds of pieces of luggage every day.  I don’t know how they do it.  Guests put their luggage outside their room at 7 a.m. on the last day of their cruise, and somehow it gets off the ship and onto a truck and to the resort and to the guest’s room here within a few hours of the guests’ arrival.  It’s crazy.  Sadly, some guests apparently are not as impressed with the magnitude of this undertaking and find it necessary to complain when their luggage is even slightly delayed.  They too blow my mind, just not in a good way.  Luggage guys can carry 100 lbs of suitcases at one time.  Amazing.

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There is a wide catgory called Hotel Services which encompasses housekeeping, gift shop, and guest experience hosts, who can be anything from front desk clerks to tour guides.  Food and Beveragfe is probably in there too.  There is a ton of work to be done, between cleaning the rooms, washing, folding, and delivering the laundry, prepping and cooking the food, serving, cleaning, and all the various aspects of all of those.

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My particular niche, as you know, is the gift shop.  There are about ten or eleven clerks, one manager, one supervisor, and one warehouse person.  We usually work one of two shifts, either 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or 2:30 p.m.p to 11:00 p.m.  There are a couple of in-between shifts but most of us only work the main ones. Up to now we have had one day off per week, but I just saw the schedule for this week and it appears we are beginning to get two days off per week.  This is most exciting news, as you might guess.

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You could say I occupy a bit of a unique place among the gift shop staff and the whole staff in general.  I am one of very few staff in my age bracket.  Most of the people I work with are twenty years younger or twenty to thirty years older.  This is a little weird for me but not too difficult to deal with, as I am usually either acting like a cranky old goat or a big overgrown kid.  One of my co-workers and I spent much of yesterday tossing Jim Carrey “Grinch” quotes at each other, for example. Looking and acting a bit younger than I am has never been more to my advantage than it is in an environment like this.  Most people are shocked when they find out my age. Actually, though, I feel like a weird outsider here.

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So anyway, on each shift we either have a “till” (a cash drawer) assigned to us or we are a floater, which means we don’t have a drawer and we just work wherever needed.  If we do have a drawer, we have to sign out our bank (the beginning amount in our drawer) and count it.  we start work half an hour before the shop opens. One thing that surprised me was how people are usually waiting outside for us to open in the morning, like a garage sale.  Once all three registers are up and running, we make sure everything is stocked and straightened, and then we open the doors.  It probably surprises some people to hear that we have three registers in that one tiny gift shop but our guests arrive in a fairly predictable pattern, hundreds at a time.  It is not unusual for four to five buses to pull up at one time.  They also depart in large numbers at the same time, so there are definitely rushes and lulls.

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Well, it is time for me to go change and get ready for my shift.  When I get off work tonight at 11, it will still be light out. I will listen to music that helps me to drag myself home and up the killer hill, (Like “At the End of the Day” from Les Mis) and I will have the same shift tomorrow.  Since I have two days off this week, I am going to be mentally planning what tours and adventures I want to try to have.  I really want a chance at a glacier landing tour.  :)  More later!

Until next time,

D.

 

Braving Devil’s Canyon May 29, 2015

Hello, all!  As promised, today’s entry is the tale of yesterday’s adventures.  I had so been looking forward to this particular tour!  I called and checked in with them early in the day the morning before, and they said they did have space available.  As an employee of McKinley, the tours offered to guests are offered to us at very nice discounts.  On the flip side of that deal, we can be bumped from any tour we sign up for, right up to the last minute, if full-rate guests show up and want on the tour.

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Luckily that was not the case yesterday.  First of all, I had a friend with me this time.  Yay!  You may remember that I had to do all my adventuring solo on my last day off, and I was quite happy with the end results of that day.  I had a good time and all, but I was hoping that at least SOME of my touring would be done with new friends.  So yesterday I was blessed to have the same day off as one of my co-workers, known as Nattie B.  She is a really fun lady who reminds me of my mom and all my aunts with her snarky sense of humor and her youthful adventurous nature.  I definitely enjoyed the day with her.

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But I am getting ahead of myself.  We called again late in the day the day before, just to check on how full the tour was, and they told us they still did have space.  The tour was set to depart Talkeetna at 9:30 a.m. and we were supposed to check in around half an hour early.  Unfortunately, this required that we get up and catch the 8:00 shuttle bus leaving the lodge.  We were quite concerned about that, because just as we can be bumped from the tours, employees are also last priority for the shuttle buses.  If there are a large number of guests trying to get to town at any particular time, employees have to wait for the next shuttle.  So we were aware of the possibility that we would miss our tour and have to try it some other time, and we were well prepared with a Plan B but were hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.  This is actually a pretty good system because it inspires thankfulness and joy at every step along the way.  i.e. “Woohoo! We got on the bus!”  “Woohooo! We made the tour!”  Basically, once you have gotten to the point where you know you won’t be bumped, the rest of the tour is pure gravy. :)

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Ahead of myself again.  We made the 8:00 shuttle and were on the road to Talkeetna.  It’s supposed to be about an hour’s ride, but there are two seasons in Alaska- Winter and Construction.  So they are working busily on the roads here, and there is always a possibility you will find yourself sitting in traffic more than once on the relatively short trip between the lodge and town.

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On this particular day, we sat and waited in traffic three times, with the result that we just barely made it to Talkeetna in time for the tour.  We jumped off the shuttle bus, hurried into the tour offices, signed in, and went right back outside to the tour bus.  (Woohooo! We made the tour!  Let’s go before someone else wants on!) We took off to the launch point, which was just a five minute bus ride across town to the river.  We had to stand on the banks and wait a little while for the boat to get there, but that was just enough time to take selfies and get a close look at the work of some very industrious beavers.  (I will edit this later to add the pics of the gnawed trees.  I took those pics with my camera instead of my phone and don’t have an easy way to get them online.)

This is me and Nattie B.  Aren't we cute?

This is me and Nattie B. Aren’t we cute?

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So then the boat showed up and we boarded, easy peasy.  I am always worried that I might have trouble doing some of these things- climbing on boats and so forth, but so far I have not had to be embarrassed.  Thank goodness.

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So we got on the boat and sat down, and our driver/captain introduced himself and his co-worker:  Israel and Emily.  They were both really great throughout the tour.

The view from our seats.  We didn't get a better pic of Is and Em.

The view from our seats. We didn’t get a better pic of Is and Em.

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So the tour continued up the river.  They would stop the boat occasionally to show us points of interest like the abandoned townsite of Curry, Alaska- an old railroad town and once home to the fanciest hotel in the state.  We also stopped for several minutes for pictures of the mountain in the distance.  It began to be lost from view the further up the river we traveled.  (Once we stopped when Nattie spotted a moose.  She was really good at yelling, “Moose!! Moose!!” The rest of the passengers are lucky she was there.  If it had been only me, I would have spotted the moose and let the rest of them miss it.  I’m bad that way.)  We passed homesteads and properties with funny stories behind them.  One, a rather wealthy man bought a property off the internet for a steal of a price, brought his wife to visit it, thoroughly unprepared for its remoteness and accessibility to wildlife, insisted upon staying in it after it had been ravaged by bears, and after four days there, listed it back online for sale. :)

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I have to confess that this part of the trip was…not dull exactly, but because I had stayed up late talking with my roomie the night before, and had been working hard, I was really tired.  Sleepy.  The boat was loud, but the smoothness of the ride and the constant sound was hypnotic and I could have easily fallen asleep.

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Finally we got closer to the exciting part of the trip.  Israel stopped the boat well below the rapids area so he could tell us exactly what we would be doing and a little about the history of the rapids.  That area has NEVER been successfully rafted, and only successfully run in a jet boat twice, and the first guy got half his teeth knocked out in the effort.   A little about the boat itself here- we were riding in a jet boat, which had no rudder or propeller, but was powered by three 400hp Chevrolet engines.  It weighed 17 tons and only needed 12 inches of water to travel.

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So what was going to happen was that we would run up the rapids as far as we could get, and then he would hold the boat in position against the rapids and everyone could come up and sit in the front window and Emily would take our picture with our own cameras.  There were somewhere between 30 and 40 people on the boat, which meant he was going to have to hold position for about 20 or 25 minutes total.  So ready, set, here we go!

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And then we wobbled to the front for pics, the boat rocking and rolling all the time:

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Cheese!!

 

Hang on and smile!!

Hang on and smile!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After everyone had been photographed and taken all the pictures they wanted, it was time to turn around and go back down.  Isreal turned the boat around in the smoothest move I’d ever seen.  He just gave it a little throttle and it spun around in the current facing right back downstream.  That was when it came time to run back down the rapids, which he warned us could actually be bumpier than the ride up.

After we had made it back down the roughest part of the rapids, Israel impressed us with a little circle spin in the boat.  That was pretty cool, and then he announced that he would be keeping it mellow for a little while because Emily would be serving lunch.  This tour was so long that lunch was included.  Well, if we had paid full price it would have been included, but Nattie B. and I had paid for our lunches separately.  I have to say here, all it was was a small sub sandwich cut in half, (choice between roast beef and turkey), potato salad, pickle spear, a couple of cherry tomatoes, some grapes, and an Andes mint, but it was the most delicious thing ever, because I was ravenous.  In my rush to make sure I didn’t miss the shuttle earlier, I had only had time to run through the cafeteria and throw together half a breakfast burrito and wolf it down.  So I appreciated that sdimple lunch.  We were offered drinks (choice between water, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, or Mountain Dew) and I happily chose Dew.

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Nattie B. and I had really funny moment here.  I noticed that she had barely eaten half of her first half of her sandwich, and my entire lunch was basically gone.  I commented on that fact, and then I absolutely broke down in a giggle fit.  I was trying to tell her through my laughter that I had done everything but suck the mayonnaise out of the little packet.  (I am still laughing at that thought even as I type this a full day later.  People here in the cafeteria probably think I am nuts.)

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Here again, this part of the trip was relaxing, and I was beginning to get pretty sleepy.  Soon we were almost back to Talkeetna, but there was one other portion of the tour- the brief stop at a replica Athabascan fish camp and a trapper’s cabin.  We were able to get off the boat and walk through the camp, and the naturalist gave us a little bit of history.  We saw several bear pelts, and moose and caribou antlers at the fish camp, and other kinds of pelts like beaver, muskrat, otter, mink, sable, and fox at the trapper’s cabin.

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After the stop at the camp and cabin, we were only a few minutes more getting back to town.  We pulled up to the bank we had launched from and disembarked, again quickly and easily.  We tipped both Emily and Israel and walked back to town.  A few stops along the way at the general store and the roadhouse, and we made it back to the shuttle bus stop.  We were super thankful to be able to board the bus and not have to wait.  We sat down and waited to take off, and I was immediately drowsy.  I’m pretty sure I slept with my mouth open halfway home.  I asked Nattie if she was laughing at me, and she assured me she wasn’t, although if she had been, she certainly couldn’t be blamed!  I’m sure I looked like a giant fly trap.

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We delivered our gifts to our co-workers.  One of them had requested a cream cheese brownie from the Roadhouse, so Nattie bought all of us one. I had also purchased some lemon-poppyseed cookies and a thing called a pasty, which was a little pie stuffed with wild rice and salmon. I saved those for a bedtime snack though, because we went straight to supper in the cafeteria after that, and then trod the Hill from Hell back to our rooms.  I used a newly discovered litany to help me make it up the hill.  In my head I was chanting, “Devil’s Canyon, glacier landing, river rafting” to help me remember that I had been and would continue to have amazing experiences here, and the trip up the hill, though hated, was a part of the package.  Acceptance was more or less what I was shooting for, and I think I have just about achieved it.

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Now looking forward to my next day off, which is supposed to be on Tuesday, when the shuttle bus goes to Wasilla, the closest larger town, and I will be shopping for new work shoes.  Yayyy!!!

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Until next time,

D.

 

My First Day Off Continues: A River Trip With Spiff and More May 27, 2015

Hello, all!  Finally!  Here I am to share with you the second half of my first day off.  (It was pretty much a necessity that I get this done today, because tomorrow is my second day off, and I hope to have more awesome adventures to share.)  So here we go:

When we left off, I was sitting at a little coffee place called Conscious Coffee, waiting for my tour to start.  Soon, it was time, and I walked back over to the tour place and began chatting with the guy who was clearly to be the tour guide.  One of his jobs was to help guests on with their mud boots, and let me tell ya- I felt a bit like an Ugly Stepsister.  The boot didn’t want to go over my shoe, and he ended up having me slip a grocery bag over my sneaker so I could get the boot on.  My fashion sense (HA!) was highly insulted, but at least there was no way I was coming away with wet feet:

My boot, she ees tres beeyootiful, no? :)

My boot, she ees tres beeyootiful, no? :)

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A bit earlier when I first checked in for the trip, the girl at the counter had said, “Your guide, Spiff, will be with you in just a minute.”  I had wondered at the time if I had heard her right, and it turned out I had.  Spiff was a fun-loving, somewhat scrawny, outdoor enthusiast who also appeared to enjoy entertaining, as evidenced by his donning a bald eagle mask and posing for pictures for my kids.

See?  Isn't he cute?

See? Isn’t he cute?

This was his

This was his “cool dude” pose.

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So while Spiff the Marvelous River Guide was helping me get my lovely boots on, his partners in crime were getting the boats ready.  They had a trailer with three of those rafts piled on top of it.  They aren’t nearly as big as they look from a distance.

Kind of reminds me of something out of Dr. Seuss- just don't ask me to come up with a creative Seuss-y  name for it.

Kind of reminds me of something out of Dr. Seuss- just don’t ask me to come up with a creative “Seuss-y” name for it.

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We loaded into a van- myself, Spiff, our young driver, and the only other guests on the trip, an older couple named Katherine and George.  It was about a ten minute ride to the launch point.  Spiff and his driver partner dragged the boats off the trailer, stashed two of them off to the side, and positioned one close to the water ready for launch.  They were cinching down the little framework where the guide’s seat was, the part that held the paddles in place, and some part of it was broken somehow, so they quickly switched out the boats.  They distributed life jackets (PFDs) and helped us get them on.  After a quick and humorous safety demonstration, Spiff got ready to help us into the boat.  Fortunately I didn’t need any help, something I had been quite concerned about, being the physical presence that I am… but it was very easy.  We sat down on the outside edge of the boat, swung our legs (hideous boots and all) over the edge into the boat, and “scooched” to our assigned places.  Finally we were off!

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It was a beautiful day- sunny, partly cloudy, not too cool.  There was a lot more breeze out on the water than there had been in town.  We drifted swiftly down the river, Spiff expertly guiding us around this way and that in order to point out interesting sights.  We saw a cabin with a porch that could be raised and lowered to keep bears from getting on it.  We saw a HUGE beaver dam, an eagle’s nest, and the favored spot of a musician who likes to sit by the river and play the banjo for raft trippers.  (I know what you’re thinking.  Don’t say it! :) )

Super clever idea!

Super clever idea!

The amount of work those critters can do is amazing!

The amount of work those critters can do is amazing!

These nests really are huge.

These nests really are huge.

The guy who sits here and plays for tourists is apparently very well-known.

The guy who sits here and plays for tourists is apparently very well-known.

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During the trip, Spiff also showed us something called ‘watermelon berry’ which smells like neither a watermelon nor a berry, but a cucumber.  He took pictures for us at some points.  I’ll be honest- I felt that none of my pictures really lived up to the hype of my initial post that day, promising “amazing” pictures. In fact, sometimes I think my photography style is a bit reminiscent of Rainman’s.  But I took pictures of things that interested me, like pics of the water rushing around trees and bushes lodged in the river, the railroad bridge, with one of the country’s last “flag stops” (where you can stand at the tracks and wave a cloth at the train and they will stop and pick you up) and the calm reflection of a little side creek called a ‘wiggle.’

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This is a “wiggle.”

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Finally the trip was at an end.  Spiff guided the raft out of the current and pulled us up to a sandy place like a small beach, and we hopped out of the raft.  Well, ok.  “Hopped” might be a bit of an overstatement.  What we did could probably be described more accurately as a stiff-legged, half crippled “hobble” during which we hoped desperately not to lose our balance on our sound-asleep legs and fall over!

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After we had ditched our PFDs, we took a short walk back to the tour place, removed our stylish footwear, and made our way on to other adventures.  I gave Spiff a tip and wished him well in all his adventures.  He had told us during the trip that he has been a bit of a wanderer his whole life, working as an ocean guide, taking people spear fishing, free diving, and a variety of other things.  During the coming winter he will be in Guam, of all places.

A Spiff-y Selfie!

A Spiff-y Selfie!

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So I continued on with my day, deciding on lunch at a favorite local spot called Denali Brewing Company.  I ordered Fish and Chips, and it was just amazing.  I’m pretty sure the server thought I was a bit of a hick when I asked what the wonderful sauce was, and he said, “It’s tartar sauce.”  It was definitely better than any tartar sauce I have ever tried.  I don’t even like tartar sauce, but this stuff was delicious!

Yum!!

Yum!!

*

After stopping in at a gift shop and buying a couple of the things I had wanted from my first visit to town, (the quilted-look cross body bag and the tie-dye hoodie with the moose in hipster glasses) I wandered back to the shuttle stop and it became apparent that I was in for a long wait.  The guests have first priority on the shuttle buses, and if they are full, employees have to wait for the next one.  I waited through the next couple of buses and met another employee who was waiting to return to the lodge.  We decided to walk back across the street and have some ice cream from Shirley’s, and I tried Alaska Wildberry.  On the way back to the bus stop, I took this picture of one of the trains:

image

*

After very nearly getting asked to get off the bus that we finally managed to board, we were finally heading back to the lodge.  I took a couple of pictures of myself that were meant to demonstrate my “tired but happy, sunkissed, adventure face.”  I’ll spare you those.  None of them turned out that well.  I checked my mail when I got back to the lodge and was happy to find my first package from home.  Mom had sent me several needed items, and I was tickled pink.  I spent the rest of the evening blogging and resting, and feeling most satisfied with my day.

*

As I mentioned at the beginning, my second day off is tomorrow.  I already have a call in to the jet boat tour place to keep me updated if the tour I want for tomorrow fills up.  If not, I will hopefully have another awesome adventure to share with you tomorrow.

*

Until next time,

D.

 

My First Day Off- And An Amazing Day It Was! (Part 1) May 20, 2015

Filed under: Alaska Summer — DDKlingonGirl @ 10:24 pm
Tags: , , ,

Hello, all!  It has been such an amazing day that I don’t even know where to start.  How about here:

Riding the 7:00 a.m. shuttle into Talkeetna, Alaska, my first day off after the start of the season, the exhuberance of my spirit was quiet, but could not be repressed.  It was already such a beautiful day:

Waiting to start my Day Off adventure!

Waiting to start my Day Off adventure!

*

The tour I had been hoping to do was with a company called Mahays Jet Boat Tours.  It was the Devil’s Canyon Adventure.  When I got off the shuttle, I went straight to the tour place (which was a short trip, since the shuttle parks in the tour place’s parking lot!) and checked on the tour.  Sadness.  The particular tour doesn’t start until May 25.  On to Plan B.

*

Plan B was a river float tour.  I walked through town to the Talkeetna River Guides office (stopping at the post office to buy postcard stamps, but they weren’t open yet) and checked on their tour schedule.  There was one getting ready to leave right then, but it was almost full, so I opted to sign up for the next tour, which didn’t leave for about two and a half hours.  Perfect!  Just enough time for breakfast and some wandering.

*

Breakfast was Plan C.  I had heard many raves about a local place called the Roadhouse.  Every little town has one, right?  The Roadhouse was basically right across the street from the river float place, so I walked on over.  It was crazy busy and crowded, with a very interesting feature that would prove instrumental in what was the first and perhaps most amazing of the day’s great moments:  family style seating.  All the tables were like Christmas-Dinner sized, and you just sat wherever there was an open chair.  At first I was seated in the window seat bar, facing out at the street, but then I decided to be social.  There was a seat at one end of a table with three couples, and I moved to sit there.

*

The server was an interesting character.  I wasn’t quite discerning enough to tell where he was from, but his accent kind of reminded me of Russian.  I had already been advised, luckily, to order a half-order of whatever I was having, because their famous sourdough pancake was literally bigger than the plate.  Everything there looked good, and they had a bakery counter with some Ah.Maz.Ing-looking food in it.  They had breakfast quiches, cinnamon rolls the size of your head, and a coconut cream pie that would feed about 20 people:

I took a picture once of a counter like this at a French bakery on St. Martin!

I took a picture once of a counter like this at a French bakery on St. Martin!

This was my breakfast.  Sourdough pancakes from starter that dates back to like, 1912 or something, reindeer sausage, and birch syrup, which I had been dying to try. :)

This was my breakfast. Sourdough pancakes from starter that dates back to like, 1912 or something, reindeer sausage, and birch syrup, which I had been dying to try. :)

The smell of the place was very distinctive.  Something about the food and the coffee and the atmosphere reminded me strongly of the town where my Dad’s mom lived, where my dad and my middle sister were both born, a place I have never really felt a strong affinity for.  But so strangely, I suddenly was almost overwhelmed with a nostalgia and a sadness for the town of Shamrock, Texas.  Maybe it was more a moment of missing my Dad’s mom, who passed away several years ago, or maybe it translated into missing my dad, because that was his hometown.  Either way, I had to text my mom to tell her about it.  I mentioned it to the lady next to me, and we talked about how smells can be powerful memory triggers, and I said I think they are the most powerful.  I’ve had another experience with that, but I’ll share it some other time.

*

All of the couples were on their way to their cruise ship and were very friendly.  They asked about me, and I told them I was a summer employee at McKinley.  They asked where I was from, and I told them Oklahoma, and then one of the men asked where in Oklahoma, and I told him Southern Oklahoma, Ardmore area.  (The first incredible moment of the day is coming up… can you feel it?  Ready to be amazed? Here we go…)  So when I said Ardmore, the lady says, “Oh, we have some really good friends who live in Ardmore…” and she named them, and I practically screamed, “OH MY GOSH, YOU KNOW (insert name of completely awesome couple I know and dearly love here)!  Holy cow, I know them!  They are completely awesome and I dearly love them!” and so it went.  I practically teared up, and then we started talking about taking pictures and just quietly posting them on Facebook and waiting for our mutual friends’ reaction.  After we finished our breakfast, we went outside and took this:

Unfortunately, the excitement has erased their names from my mind!  Mary and Bill, maybe?

Unfortunately, the excitement has erased their names from my mind! Mary and Bill, maybe?

*

After the pictures, we said our goodbyes and they headed off down the street and I went back to the general store to use the ATM, then on to the post office to pick up some more postcard stamps.  Then I decided to check out the Talkeetna Historical Museum, to see if I could squeeze it in before my tour.  As I  approached the door of the museum, the curator and a park ranger were just coming out the door.  Or more accurately the park ranger had come to see her before the opening and was leaving.  They let me know they wouldn’t quite be open for a while, and I told them I had a tour in a while and asked if I would be able to do justice to a museum tour between opening and the time I was supposed to be at the raft place.  Turned out I couldn’t, but the park ranger invited me to come down to the ranger station and watch their short movie presentation about climbing Mt. McKinley.  I figured it would be a good way to kill time, so the ranger and I walked the couple of blocks down to the station.  Here again was an enjoyable moment, meeting a local and having a nice conversation.  The ranger’s name was Jay, and I found out he had once worked in Oklahoma!  We arrived at the ranger station and I watched the move and used the facilities.

*

The lady at the float place had told me to be back there by 10:30, and it was only a few minutes after 10 when I left the ranger station, but I went ahead and went back to the float place and checked in.  There was a little coffee place right next door, called Conscious Coffee, and I sat there and enjoyed an Irish Creme latte while I waited for my float trip:

Ahhh, caffeine!

Ahhh, caffeine!

*

Ok, now I am going to be really cruel and mean, and break this entry into two parts.  In the next part, I’ll tell you all about the float trip, my river guide, my super tasty lunch, and the conclusion of the evening. Stay tuned! :)

*

Until next time,

D.

 

Scenes From A Gift Shop and Postcards From Nowhere May 19, 2015

Hello, all! It occurred to me that I hadn’t really posted much about *where* I actually work. Well, I mean, you know the main part. I’m in Alaska, at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. I work in the Gift Shop. It is quite the unexpected experience, to be sure. Now, I have been in gift shops before. I have been in the Statue of Liberty gift shop, and the Mount Rushmore gift shop (I think) and Branson, South Padre, and Disney World, and I have never given enough thought to what a unique work environment it is.

*

The view from the counter.

The view from the counter.

To start with, it is BUSY!! FIrst of all it’s like a really expensive garage sale. There are people hanging around outside the door waiting for it to open 10-15 minutes early. I’m pretty sure I have never done that, either at a garage sale OR a gift shop. The second thing is that there are predictable lulls and rushes. We know ahead of time when there are going to be four or five buses rolling in and how many hundreds of people are expected to pour out of them. We also know that they will either be jumping off their motor coach and on to another excursion bus (and be ravenous for snacks and water in the few minutes between), or they will be checking into their room for a night or two (and thinking about all the things they either lost or left behind from their luggage or have decided they can’t live without RIGHT NOW), or they will be remembering the last lodge they were at, with its gift shop full of things they loved but for reasons unknown decided to pass up and are now blessed with a second chance, or they will have spent the last several hours on a bus chatting with their fellow cruisers and admiring/coveting the totally adorable things they picked up at their last stop and wondering if they can outdo the Joneses in bling and/or snagged bargains. And sometimes they will be wishing that everyone they know and love from their parents to their offspring to their next door neighbor and his adorable toddler granddaughter could be with them but since they can’t, let’s take some tiny part of Alaska home to ALL of them!

The kids' section makes me wish my kids were still little so I could bring them all the awesome books!

The kids’ section makes me wish my kids were still little so I could bring them all the awesome books!

*

In a way, the next few months are going to be an interesting experience in Wildlife Viewing. Already I have met Impatientus Husbandus, the surprisingly sneaky specimen who smiles tiredly at the perky, stalking sales girl and then snaps the head off his wife who just henpecked him for going ahead and paying for his water and pocket knife with his credit card instead of waiting ten seconds for her to pick out one more postcard.  I have met Rowdyus British Bratus who bounces the moose ball high enough to ricochet off the ceiling, and gets into a scuffling match with his younger brother for the last cast replica, made in China, $1.25 authentically painted bear claw. I have glimpsed the Bling-Fingered, Big-Butted Boobie Hatch, who tries on every ring in the jewelry case and bemoans the fact that they are all prettier than the one she already got on the ship and she just has a suspicion she was tricked somehow. Also spotted were the English and Australian Sugar Slopper, super sweet and polite specimens who (in their accents that just make you want to take them home and listen to them talk all day) just can’t say enough good things about your darling shop and your precious merchandise and your lovely helpful counter girls; the Plain American Weird Bird who wants to know if we carry belts and lighters (?); and finally the Asian Artfinder who wants to buy a print of every painting in the entire lodge.

Shot glasses, key chains, and magnets, Oh My!

Shot glasses, key chains, and magnets, Oh My!

*

i jest, of course. Almost every guest we have met has been perfectly lovely. We have not even been open for a week and we will experience variations on these themes for the next four months. We will patiently point out the water cooler and the Tylenol and the key chains and magnets over and over and over again. And sometimes we will come away changed. Like when we meet the lady who enthusiastically shares with us that this vacation is her and her husband’s 50th state to visit and their 50th year together and that with their health declining the way it is, she is sure they won’t live to return. And the man we chat with for a few minutes before we notice his Navy cap and ask the obvious question and when we get the affirmative answer we expect and thank him for his service, his reply, “It was my honor. Thank you for your support.” makes us want to go hide in the storeroom and weep for an hour or two. And the somewhat older lady who is buying children’s books for grandchildren she doesn’t have and doesn’t know when she will, and the lady who, when we share with her that our mother is watching out for our kids for us while we are here, shares the tale of her opposite experience wherein she had to take her 90 year old mother to her 20-something daughter’s house at the last possible minute to be cared for while the lady is on her vacation, and how the old matriarch was suspicious and then sad when she found out she didn’t get to go to Alaska too.

The Christmas tree right inside the side entrance. I love the flat gold cutout ornaments.

The Christmas tree right inside the side entrance. I love the flat gold cutout ornaments.

*

And there are rock star co-workers who, thanks to their mission service in Taiwan, can speak fluent Chinese to our Asian guests when the rest of us feel like complete clods not being able to understand what they need. And managers with the patience of Job when we ask for the millionth time which key we press to do this or that function. And ornery, sassy, older co-workers who make us feel less lonely because they remind us of our moms and their sisters.

*

I was going to talk about the postcards I have sent to friends, family, and theater people, and the postcards I have yet to receive from anyone, but I think this is one of those moments when what has been said is all that is needed.  Basically, working at a cruise line resort lodge gift shop is nothing like I expected. It is busy and it is slow. It is funny and it is sad. It is challenging and it is easy. And it is going to make me a better person in ways I could never have imagined.

Until next time,

D.

 

 
Shawn L. Bird

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