Thursday, September 27, 2018

Not dead; on Hawaiian time

I know it's been a bit since I posted my last update. I owe you a Phase I wrap up, a story or two about Los Angeles, and maybe something about a Phase II.

Until then, enjoy Waikiki!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Adrift in Anchorage

On Saturday, September 8, I arrived in Anchorage - finding myself solo for the first time in over a week. A confused taxi ride (the guy didn't know how to use the map app on his phone and I had no signal!) to my AirBnB and I did my best to settle in. This included a mile walk to the nearest restaurant (Tasty Freez?) for a burger and some ice cream, then picking up a 40 of PBR, then walking back to the AirBnB. I then proceeded to sleep for a long time.

The next day was, well, more of the same. I walked around a nearby lake, but failed miserably to make it a relaxing walk. The places I wanted to eat were closed and a guy tried to tell me how much me walking past him was the best thing that happened to him all day. Head-faking him (where are you headed? Oh, surprise, I'm headed in the opposite direction.), I went and had lunch at the same place I had dinner the night before. Then I walked another mile or so up to a bar (Piper's) where I had a few beers and eventually made friends with a bartender who was ending his last shift at the place. After a couple beers, a couple swapped stories, and a couple shared poems, he offered to drive me back to where I was staying - a welcome development given I wasn't looking forward to the long walk.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Juneau there's going to be a pun.

In 1917 miners in the Treadwell gold mine began undercutting the shaft supports in order to get the last little bits of gold out. This, in combination with an unusually high tide, caused the mine to flood and collapse, leading to the close of the mine. It's believed no one died, though one person went missing - possibly fleeing town to avoid his debts.

This is one of the three or so facts you will hear right after someone in Juneau says hello to you. [They really don't want anyone to have died in this, but I ask you if you have a mine collapse and one guy is "missing" do you assume he died in the mine or that he got out out and simply skipped town to avoid bills? I'm betting on the first. Sorry Juneau, he's dead.]

Dan, again, in brackets.

Getting off the boat at around four in the morning was not one of my highlights for the trip. As a bonus, neither Dan nor I could get a consistent cell signal, meaning we were a bit in the dark as to what to do while we waited for the hostel to open. [It also made it very hard to say call a cab, thankfully the ferry terminal had a local phone with which to call cab companies.]

A note about the hostel - for $12 cash and a chore, one can stay at the only hostel in town. The price opened up some possibilities (else you paid $100/night and had to forego any large expense), but the catch was the hours - the "office" was only open 8-9am and 5-11pm. This meant there was some waiting in Dan and my future. [Juneau has many good aspects but it is not a town that's hopping at 4 a.m.]

We waited a few hours for Donna's, a recommended diner, to open (6am). We took a taxi over there, then I had too much coffee while we waited and waited. After some false starts (oh, bonus, it was Labor Day, so even things that would normally be open were closed), we got another taxi to the hostel. Finally checked in, we were kicked out until they reopened at five. What's open on Labor Day? A mountain was open.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Lounging to Alaska: a Nautical Tale

Dan & I (see: Dan & Simon's Wacky Rally posts) met at the ferry terminal a little before four in the afternoon. It turned out the boat wasn't going to depart until seven, so our first interaction was a debate about what to do until then. We ended up just getting on the boat and figuring it out. [It turns out the boat, which we thought left at 6 PST leaves at 6 Alaska Standard Time, giving us another hour before departure.]

If you didnt guess, Dan will be conntributing in brackets.

As I sit here thinking about how to shape this into a narrative, I keep coming up with "ways I could have done this better." To be clear, I had a delightful time on the boat, but it's hard to make a post out of "I ate and read and looked out the window and played card games" without thinking about how I could have streamlined the process. I'll do my best to give a full account before giving a future traveler advice.

We spent the first night with a light dinner (chowder, probably) [It was indeed clam chowder] and hitting our two drink limit in the dining area. After that, we just wandered around the ship, getting an idea of its public spaces. To wiz wit:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lots to See in Seattle

Well, it feels like it's been a year since I visited Seattle, but it's only been about two weeks. We'll see if I can put together a string of words that makes sense...

I arrived in Seattle in the afternoon of the 27th of August by Greyhound. The trip wasn't anything exciting - confused and contradictory bureaucrats are pretty normal. There was one police encounter when we picked up someone just released from jail in Everett (they wanted to search him), but otherwise the trip was rather tame.

In need of a bite to eat, I wandered around the stadiums (the bus stop is right next to the stadium complex) and found myself a little pub. I celebrated my return to America with a burger & some cheap beer and quizzed my bartender about public transit. Not only was that line of inquiry useless, it ended up costing me an hour, as I missed the last "Sounder" train (one hour trip) and would have to use two connecting buses (two hour trip) to get to the ferry that would take me to Whidbey Island.

As a general complaint, the public transit in Seattle was a pain to understand - even folks who were employed by the transit services didn't know what was going on. I put $10 on an ORCA card (that cost a non-refundable $5) thinking "how much could a bus trip be?" - turns out $4.25 for the bus and 5.05 for the ferry left me with an immediate need to refill the card the next day. Later I'd do my research, put $27 more on my card, only to find out the ferry only charged fares one-way, meaning I had $5 on the card when I eventually left. I gave it to my hosts, of course, but the sentiment stands.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Dan reads! Dan writes! Simon does Arithmetic!

Hello from Juneau!

While I was writing the Vancouver and Canada wrap-up posts, Dan added commentary to the Wacky Rally posts. If you'd like to read his additions, check those out!

Seattle, life aboard the M/V Columbia, and Juneau are coming soon (and I realize I didn't do my "math" in the wrap-up of Canada - will rectify that shortly).

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Porta-Party (Wrapping Up Canada)

This is meant to be a Canada wrap-up post. As this is the first wrap-up, I'm not sure how exactly to proceed. I've added a bunch of pictures from earlier posts. After chatting with Dan (see: future posts and the Wacky Rally), I've come up with eight Best & Worst and four Most & Leasts. In no particular order:

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Run for Vancouver

That's what passes for a pun now. "Run for Cover" Not my most inspired work.

Stoch and I arrived in Vancouver about two hours early (though we sat outside the station for a good 45-60 minutes prior to that) and made a beeline to his hostel (the Cambie) where he was very excited to take a hot shower. The hostel operates a bar and far be it from me to waste an opportunity for cheap beer. I sat, drank, wrote, and waited - first for Stoch to finish settling in, then for a mystery person Stoch met in his room.

The mystery person turned out to be Rebecca. Hailing from the UK, she's wandering around the world for a bit and I suspect our paths might cross again. But before they cross again, I should get on with how they crossed for the first time.

Gassy Jack, eponymous man of Gastown

Sated & slaked, our anglophonic trio explored Gastown for a little while. Our first actual stop was for a pee and pint pause at some ping pong place. While there I saw someone with a homemade "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" shirt and I mentioned I was from Philly. This garnered about a dozen hugs and one free shot. Perhaps not everyone hates Philly! In good spirits, we pressed on.

After Gastown, we wandered up to the waterfront (indeed, circling around Waterfront Station) and did the usual tourist gawking and squawking. In need of a spot to take in fresh beer and unload the processed stuff, we stopped in an English-themed pub. It was where I said farewell to Stoch, as he was catching a morning train nonstop to Toronto.

I made my way back to Waterfront Station and rode the skytrain out to Point Moody to meet up with my host for Vancouver - a "distant" cousin (I use the term somewhat ironically, due to geography - I believe he is first cousins with my father). Paul was a great font of knowledge about my father's side of the family and had a lot of information about visiting Lebanon - a place certainly on my to-see list. While we had several great conversations (and I learned a ton of my family history), I should get back to Vancouver generally.

The next set of photos are from the first night...