Tuesday, July 23, 2002

On my day of departure, Lady Luck was not on my side.  I discovered my mother had entered the hospital the night before.  To add to the heap of uncertainties, I had employed a contractor to remove my old driveway and sidewalks and replace it with new. While removing the drain in the middle of my driveway (I live on a hill), he discovered some serious drainage problems.  I was giving him my decision on the solution as I headed to the airport knowing the fix could add another $3,000 to an already expensive project.

I entered Dayton International Airport, checked in (using my eTicket that I purchased online) and then ventured to the security checkpoint.  Things have changed a lot since September 11 and I was hoping to be ready for it.  The only thing metal on my body was the eyelets on my tennis shoes and my wedding ring.  However, my carry-on bag would be another matter.  Wrapped in socks and underwear was $4,000 in camera equipment.  As predicted, my body passed through security without incident while my carry-on bag was flagged.  Much to my amazement, they only ran a piece of special paper around the entire main zipper, not even bothering to open it up.  I later discovered this method is used to check for explosives residue.  I guess camera equipment must look similar to detonation devices.

The flight from Dayton to St. Louis can be described in one word: uneventful.  The flight from St. Louis to Anchorage was anything but uneventful.  Before getting on the plane, I discovered I had a boarding pass for a middle seat which is not what I had requested several months ago.  Fortunately, a pleasant woman at the boarding desk was able to change it.  The good news?  I would get an isle seat.  The bad news?  I would be sitting behind a hyperactive teenage girl's soccer team.  It looked to be a long, long flight.  I boarded the plane, found my seat and was pleasantly surprised to discover two elderly women sitting in the seats beside me.

As soon as the plane was in the air and the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign was turned off, the lady beside me got up.  I sighed figuring I'd be constantly getting up during the flight to let this woman visit the rest room.  Much to my amazement, she bypassed the lavatory and disappeared somewhere in the front of the airplane.  As the minutes passed, I realized she was not coming back.  YES!!!  The seat beside me would be empty for the entire flight!  I'm sure I got strange looks from those seated around me as I cackled like a mad fiend, crossing my legs, uncrossing my legs, crossing them again, uncrossing them again and then stretching them completely out.  A six and a half-hour flight with tons of leg and body room.  I was so excited!

All flights lasting four or more hours come with a "meal."  Usually it is so volatile that it can even gag the Roto Rooter man.  Mixing nasty food with the choppy turbulence we were encountering made me wonder if I would spew like a can of beer.  Much to my relief, the food was actually very tasty and the discomfort bag stayed in the seat back pouch.  I even felt good enough to watch one of my DVD movies on my laptop.

However, the flight had one last jab in store for me.  As we began our descent into Anchorage, the plane started to pitch violently.  On three different occasions, we dropped a great deal of altitude very quickly, giving that sickening feeling of that first big drop on a roller coaster ride.  Although I am somewhat of a veteran flyer, my knuckles were turning white from gripping the arm rests.  My stress level was cut in half when the plane came to rest at the terminal in Anchorage.

I had finally returned to the land of the Midnight Sun.  Alaska has three things that are the highest per capita than any of the other fifty states: bars, churches and ice cream.  I was here to see none of these.

My new luggage provided lots of comedy for everyone at the baggage claim area since every fifth bag on the carousel looked like mine.  Each time I picked up a green bag, looked at it and then put it back, their laughter grew in volume.  I was pleased that I did not get a round of embarrassing applause when I finally found all my bags.

Amy is a friendly eighteen year old who drives the shuttle bus for Thrifty Rental Car.  Once I discovered that Thrifty does not have a desk at the airport, I became her passenger.  She had taken this job for the summer to earn a few dollars before starting college in the fall.  She too was disappointed that rain had set in for the next couples of days as she would be taking a road trip with friends into Canada tomorrow.

I picked up my Chrysler Sebring at the rental car agency and hit the road.  I arrived at Don Prince's condo around 10:30 p.m.  Don had worked for the Alaska Railroad from 1950 to 1980 with his last position being General Yard Master (today's equivalent of a Terminal Superintendent). We had been corresponding via email for the last year or so and he had offered to let me bunk with him while I was in Anchorage.  His condo was beautiful and Alaska Railroad posters hung in most every room.  I was introduced to his cat Missy and shown into a very nice guest bedroom.  At midnight (4:00 a.m. according to my body clock), we finally said goodnight and I feel asleep to the sound of Alaskan rain.

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