ALASKA Day One: Greg and F Street Station

Hello from Alaska!

God, that sounds so strange. Almost as strange as seeing nothing but snow-covered wrinkled earth and the glaciers that carve their way through that mountainous terrain from the air. It took me 41 years to get here, and after meeting some amazing people on the plane from Minneapolis, after spending three hours talking with an off-duty Northwest Pilot who lives just outside of Anchorage as we held court at the 757's Galley, after renting my Buick Rendezvous and driving out of Anchorage into the vistas of the Chugach Mountains directly to the east, after checking into my room at the Earth Bed and Breakfast--which is more luxurious than any hotel suite I have ever stayed in, and after having dinner and hanging out at the F Street Station Bar and Grill and meeting some amazingly friendly people, including one from Tiffin, Ohio of all places; I can only ask myself: "What the hell took me so long?!?!"

Granted, the flight was hell. But from Columbus to Minneapolis I just slept. From Minneapolis to Anchorage, I thought I was going to go mad. Before we boarded, there was news of the volcano erupting in the Aleutians and there was some discussion that our plane might have needed to divert from Anchorage, possibly to Fairbanks. Fortunately, that did not come to pass. But it didn't help that there were 300 people crammed into the 757 like sardines. There was no room. It was hot. I could hardly even get to my carry on bag under my seat for a bottled water without some other passenger tripping over me as he or she made his or her way to the lavatory. But strangely, making that trip myself made this flight the most enjoyable one I've ever had.

I passed a flight attendant and looking out a window, I asked him where we were. He deferred his answer to Greg, a Northwest Pilot who lives outside Anchorage and was commuting home. We started talking like we were old friends. We talked about the geography, the flight times, the plane, the airline industry--which led to politics and Bush and Hillary and Iraq, which led to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which led to exports TO Japan-----DID YOU KNOW MOST OF THE OIL FROM PRUDHOE BAY GETS EXPORTED TO JAPAN WHEN WE DON'T PRODUCE ENOUGH FOR OURSELVES? Neither did I. Then we started talking about government in general, divorce, gay marriage, the religious right, family values--all of it. And then we really started having fun. Other passengers joined us in the Galley area. Other passengers needed to use the lavatory. Flight attendants were trying to serve drinks and we were standing in the way. So we started this strange dance with the flight attendants and then we really got to talking with them and cutting up. I, being a restaurant manager, offered to help. They appreciated the offer. Then Greg and I were standing in front of the lavatory doors just behind first class. Passengers would walk up and ask if they were occupied, and we would tell them no, but just as meal service had been cut back aboard planes, restroom service now required a toll.

I have never had that much fun on an airplane.

So I rent my car and everyone at the Alamo desk was very helpful and friendly. The lot attendant took time to help me identify the block heater and explained what I needed to do with it. He even cut the cord tie so I didn't have to do it myself and affixed the cord with duct tape to the washer fluid reservoir. I really appreciated that.

I checked into the B&B and Angel greeted me very warmly. No front desk clerk ever welcomes anyone to a hotel like that. I was showed my room, the bathroom, the amenities, the living room with the DVD collection, the computer with internet access, all of it. Then she gave me dining and shopping advice and directions. But in the end, I opted for Greg's suggestion of the F Street Station Bar and Grill and the fried battered halibut and the local Alaskan Ale. WOW!

I had just sat down at the bar. George on my left was friendly and welcoming, Andie the bartender was friendly and welcoming, Trudy on my right was friendly and inquiring and her friend Jackie and I started a long conversation. Turns out her sister lives in Westerville, OH just a few miles from me. SMALL WORLD. We're probably going out to a movie Friday night in Anchorage.

I gotta tell you folks, I was given a lot of props for wanting to come to Alaska in Winter by the locals and the Alaska transplants. But what I have really relished is how friendly everyone is. Everyone I've met in Anchorage so far has made me feel welcome. Even the guy walking next to me out of the airport terminal seemed to sense I was lost and asked me where I was headed. When I said the rental car lot he pointed the way. My vacation is off to an amazing start, and I am really glad I came.

Thanks for reading.


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