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Posts Tagged ‘alaska air’

068

Four wonderful days spent with my son-in-law, my oldest daughter, and their four children = one tired grandmother.

A stroke of the keyboard and I missed the six-day adventure I had planned, but I got the four days at a “discounted” price. Yeah. Whatever. It was still a lot of fun, even with the missing carry-on (“Grandma, why did you lose your suitcase?”)

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We drove out onto the Homer Spit the first day, but it was too cold and wet to spend any time there. This is the leeward side of the spit. My daughter pointed out the camps along the spit: motorhomes on the leeward side and tents on the windy side. “That’s where people with no money camp,” she said.

“That’s where the Presleys would camp,” I replied.

We laughed: we both spent many an hour holding up the sides of a wind-blown tent on a cold, blustery, “Summer” day somewhere in the Oregon, Idaho, or Nevada wilds. We’ll take a motorhome now.

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Saturday was punctuated with sun breaks and a 5th Birthday Party for the second born.

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He wanted Mr. Incredible’s face for a cake.

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There were lots of presents, but this one was the favorite. Grandma’s note to self: which Legos™ kits to purchase the boys for the next birthday and Christmas. (Also: Rescue Bots™)

Javan is into insects as well, but the insect-related gifts were not the big hit. He *likes* bugs, but he doesn’t really want to touch them or hold them. He only wants to look at them.

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Four little children. The youngest doesn’t talk, but babbles along in her own mystery language, content to be adorable and cute.

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<melt>

My daughter seems calm, but the truth is: she’s simply too exhausted to be anything else after playing referee, mentor, cook, house-cleaner, and laundress all day.

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The boys unload the dishwasher for her. They think this is great fun, not a chore. I’d like to know how she brain-washed them.

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Of course, they can only unload “their” dishes, but that’s most of the work!

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She also employs them as short-order kitchen help. Javan made sandwiches for his siblings. It’s a job with perks: he gets to lick the spoon in between dips into the jelly jar.

I did not eat a jelly sandwich the entire time I was there.

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Zephaniah is learning how to mow the lawn. That’s a pretty cool job to learn how to do!

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Zephan is also in charge of this little monster. Summer is just two months old, part Corgi and Golden Retriever and something else. She’s all sharp puppy teeth and a Holy Terror to toes.

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It takes a lot to wear her down. Zephaniah feeds and waters her, and takes her in/out when she needs to go. She’s almost house-trained. She’s one smart little imp.

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So is this guy. Those dimples slay me. He’s nearly four years old and has a vocabulary of a six-year old. I guess he makes up for the fact that his little sister refuses to learn to talk. She doesn’t have to. He’s too curious not to.

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We went to a church picnic and baptism on Sunday. Alaskans would be surprised to know that it wasn’t much different from a million other church picnics and baptisms that I have been to in Oregon: cold, rainy, no warmer than 55-degrees, and the water in the river a mere step above snow-melt stage. One young woman wore a wet suit to get baptized in. Smart girl.

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Eli just cracks me up. He wouldn’t hold my hand when we went places and refused to hug me “good-bye”, but he doesn’t remember me from his toddler days. I was a curious adult to him, one that (gasp) wouldn’t let him pull the puppy’s leg any more than his mom would.

He sat on the arm of the chair. I told him he was not supposed to do that.

“No, I can’t sit on the arm of the couch.”

“No, I’m pretty sure your mom said the chair, too.”

Grin. Darn: Grandma is figuring out the rules!

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Homer is a beautiful spot near the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, situated on Kachemak Bay. There is a community across the bay, but it is not accessible by road. 224 miles from Anchorage, it is a five+ hour drive. This is because you have to drive around Turnagain Bay on the north end of Cook Inlet. Kachemak Bay opens into the southern end of Cook Inlet and the Pacific Ocean.

The Homer Spit is a narrow strip of land possibly formed by glacial moraine. It is home to crab boats, charter fishing boats, commercial fishing boats, and the “Deadliest Catch’s” own Time Bandit. The Time Bandit was not in dock either time we were out on the spit. There are camp sites and a long strip of tourist shops, small cafes, and charter boat headquarters. Our second trip out onto the spit involved walking along the board walks and playing ‘tourist’.

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Someone’s charter had just docked and the the little boys were thrilled to watch this man clean the halibut and salmon catch.

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“Are the fishes still alive?” (No one tell these homeschooled kids that they can’t ask a million questions. They learned more about fishing than the quieter kids who also happened upon the scene. The dock worker didn’t mind answering questions.)

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“Want to touch my bloody hand?” he teased.

Um. No.

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But we will pick up the middle part of a dead crab’s body and put it in our pocket with the small barnacle mom found in the seaweed for us.

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And we will pick up a branch that washed ashore, tangled in rotting seaweed, and wave it around at everyone.

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The practical child just lobs rocks into the sea.

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I thought this was funny.

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We also did a little walking near Beluga Lake, a small man-made lake at the end of Homer Airport. Beluga Lake serves as an extension of the airport and the floating docks are for float planes, not boats. A person can charter a float plane for a “bear sight-seeing trip.” One can hope to see a “brown” bear or a “black” bear. No one calls brown bears by the name we use in the Lower 48: Grizzly.

Noone had to explain the difference to me, either. I figured out that tid-bit all by myself. I have no desire to see an Alaskan Brown Bear. I had my own Grizzly Bear experience when I was ten years old and we were visiting Yellowstone National Park. It was enough for a life time.

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This is “the jungle” near Beluga Lake. No, I don’t get it, either. Everywhere, the land is covered with horsetail, cow parsley, sedges, wild lupins – and this bare spot of forest on a rock has been dubbed “the jungle” by my grandsons.

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“Come on, Grandma! There’s mushrooms up here! And stairs!” (tree roots that create the illusion of a stairway)

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Our last tourist stop was the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center and the Beluga Slough Trail.

There’s an interpretive center inside that takes you through a brief history of the peninsula and the occupation of the Japanese during WW2. The Japanese held the island of Kiska in the Aleutians during the Great War. The damage to the ecosystem and subsequent conservation work is chronicled throughout the center.

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Javan loved the interactive nest displays, particularly this one of the Puffins. “There’s eggs in there.”

We walked a little bit, but my daughter wasn’t very eager to wander off onto the little side trails. A cow moose with twin calves had been sighted on the refuge and near the Center. I wasn’t very keen on the idea of meeting a mama moose with twin babies, either. Also, we had been watching a moose out on the delta and it had moved in the general direction of the refuge. A moose from a distance is great.

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We settled for Sandhill cranes. If you click on the photo, you will notice what we did not see with our bare eyes: Sandhill Crane chicks.

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Back to the center (Why can’t we walk to the beach, Mommy?” and “How do you know there’s a mommy moose with twins out here?”).

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Mountain climbers.

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The lupins were everywhere, but this was the first place I noted the dark blue wild irises.

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Poisonous cow parsnip was everywhere as well. Pungent, tall, and wicked-looking.

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The locals (and my daughter) call it “pootschki” (push-key), but I have always known it as cow parsnip. There’s an abundance of nettles as well, and Devil’s Club.

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I found this large checkered lily as well. The blossoms were about an inch long and the stem was around two feet tall.

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Bike racks make for climb-able art.

My flights in and out of Homer ended in Kenai. It is simply too expensive to fly into Homer, even though it is a mere 90 miles south of Kenai.  The family combined it into a trip to Wal-Mart, the nearest of which is in Kenai.

Something I liked about the trip was the public restrooms. You have to know where they are as many of them are inside local businesses, but they are out there. There are no rest stops with public restrooms, only these odd sites in places like Ninilchik. Arwen took Eli in to a restaurant to use one while we stopped at a little grocery to purchase a drink for Sam. The power was out on the peninsula, but the grocery had a generator (or the next-door liquor store did).

I think Eli ended up peeing in some bushes, but he did get to touch the stuffed brown bear inside the restaurant.

The day before, he told us how he saw dead tigers. “Tigers don’t live in Alaska,” retorted older brother, Zephan.

“Which is why they were dead tigers,” Grandma said.

Z. smiled. He’s starting to catch on to the family humor.

Last stop was the Kenai airport. I had less than half an hour to spare, but it wasn’t like I would have to go through security or fight for a seat. I checked my luggage so I could pick it up on the regular carousel when I arrived in Anchorage. This flight was on a larger plane (it even had a stewardess).

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I had no problem securing a window seat and no one offered to sit next to me, which was fine. I stared out the window and wondered at the amount of water in Alaska. The parts that I flew over were pocked with old rivers snaking in and out of horseshoe loops, ponds, lakes, and mud puddles. I’ve flown over Minnesota (Land of a Thousand Lakes) but Alaska has more small waterways than Minnesota.

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Sunset was just beginning when we landed at 10:00PM.

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Anchorage was socked in by clouds, but not so socked in that you couldn’t see the mountains. I miss snow-capped mountains.

The flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks (much further north) was uneventful and still racing ahead of the sunset.

My only other complaint lay in Fairbanks: my boarding pass said Gate 1. It was obvious to me that Gate 1 was not awaiting an immediate departure and I asked the Ticket Agent. “Oh, no. That would be Gate 4.” As if missing my flight due to bad information was the least of her concerns.

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Sunset caught up to us as we awaited take-off from Fairbanks. It was after midnight.

Side note: my hostess in Homer provided me with an eye mask for sleeping in the day light. I didn’t need it. I have no problem sleeping in the day. I just cannot sleep on an airplane or in a car.

I will plan my next trip to Homer better. July sounds good. A supply of OFF! sounds really good. Hiking boots and checked luggage also sounds good. A bigger and better camera lens also sounds good. And a parka. (Just kidding on the last!)

In the end: a lot of moose. 4-5 caribou. A lot of bald eagles (Alaska’s equivalent of Oregon’s Turkey Vultures. I love vultures). Half a dozen Sandhill cranes and at least two babies. Sea Otters. Six or seven air-plane sized mosquitoes, most of which were inside the restroom at Wal-Mart in Kenai. Forty-million cousins, aunts, uncles, and a life time of family history in Homer for my son-in-law and his children (and, by proxy, my daughter).

They are so happy there. I am so happy for them. Homer suits them well.

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104

I flew to Alaska to see one set of grandchildren (and their parents, of course).  It seemed simple enough: the shuttle to Seattle, a bigger airplane to Anchorage, and shuttle to Kenai where my son-in-law would meet me. I was only going to be gone four days, so I packed a carry-on and carried my purse/camera case. No checked luggage = no lost luggage.

My extra blanket, my reading material, my meds, my extra camera lens – everything fit in the carry-on bag with the fancy Snap-on™ logo. It’s a duffle-bag with a hard back, two wheels, and a long handle. I’ve used it before and it’s pretty darn handy, and just the right size for those smaller storage compartments.

It didn’t fit in the compartment on the shuttle plane to Seattle, so I let the stewardess put it on the a la cart as a non-checked bag. They unload these bags on the tarmac and you just grab your bag upon landing before moving to the next flight.

The shuttle flight was quick – and irritating. The couple in the row behind me conversed entirely about accounting. I kind of wanted to turn around and shout, “I’M ON VACATION HERE – CAN WE PUT WORK TO REST??” But I didn’t. My seat-mate was an engaging teenager on her way home, and she made up for the clueless working couple behind me. (I wasn’t really that irritated, it was just humorously annoying. Really? Do we have to talk about my line of work o0n my first day of vacation? I just want to not think about work at all.)

Seattle. Tarmac. Cart full of carry-ons. No Snap-On™ bag. I circled the cart several times. The baggage clerk asked a few questions and re-checked the belly of the plane. Nope. He walked me to Customer Service and said I could fill out a claim there as someone had obviously grabbed my bag instead of theirs. This was way at the end of the concourse we landed at.

This is only one complaint about Alaska Air. I have one more, but the rest of the time, I found Alaska Air personnel (and their associates) went way over the call of duty to help me out. Just not the Customer Service people in Seattle. There were two clerks, one customer. Time was ticking and I had another flight to catch. They ignored me. One minute, two. I’m not much more patient than that, but I think I waited about three minutes before I said, “I have a plane to catch!”.

OH. There’s an irritated customer there. (Can I just slap them now?) A few punches of the keyboard later and the result was: I’d have to fly on to Anchorage and make my claim there. Happens all the time: some airhead grabs the wrong bag and you hope they are honest enough to realize their mistake before they catch their next flight. The bag will catch up with you. Oh, and my flight that was board in two minutes? Catch the train (it comes by every two minutes and the station is at the end of the concourse, that way). Ride it to the N concourse and your gate is at the very end of that. All said matter-of-fact.

My jaw dropped. Are you kidding me?

Of course, I made it – after my seat had already boarded but while confused late boarders were still milling around. I cut in line ahead of the confusion with another veteran flyer, only to find that my assigned seat had been commandeered by a rude young couple flying with their toddler. What the heck. I didn’t want to sit next to a squirmy kid anyway (and she was adorable), so I took the aisle seat and hoped to sleep. I didn’t.

We landed in the dark at Anchorage and as we disembarked, an announcement was made for me to contact the Ticket Agent, except they used either my husband’s first name or my middle name, neither of which are on the tag on the carry-on. The Ticket Agent, however, had no idea what I was talking about and sent me to the Baggage Agent down at Baggage Claim. I had to go that direction to get to my next gate, anyway, and I had a lot of time to spare.

The Alaska Air Baggage Clerk found all my information and told me where my bag was coming from: Canada. CANADA? It would be in Seattle on the next flight, then to Anchorage where I could get it. NO – I’m flying to Kenai with a final destination of Homer, 90 miles south of there. Couldn’t they just route it to Homer? She keyed all that in and said, “Hopefully, we’ll catch it here and send it to Homer. Otherwise, here’s the number to Kenai and you can call them and ask them to ship it on down. If they give you any trouble, here’s our number and we’ll call them and tell them to…”

I had a few hours to sit at the gate on the tarmac in Anchorage, but no extra blanket and no book to read. <sigh> I tried to sleep. The sky lightened.

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WHOA! This is the smallest plane I have ever flown on. I’ve always wanted to fly in a small plane, but there’s a certain amount of fear associated with flying, especially at take-off and landing. I’ve only flown in planes with stewardesses, no matter how small the actual plane. This can’t possibly have a steward or stewardess, so that woman & man in uniform have to be the pilot and co-pilot. <GULP>

It’s a Beechcraft1900 Airliner Turboprop. There’s one row of seats on either side, so everyone gets a window seat. I chose one just behind the propeller on the right. I hoped we wouldn’t fly in the clouds, but would stay low enough to watch the ground pass by.

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One of the cool features of this plane is this: the cockpit is not sealed off and you can watch the pilot. Because of the weather, the flight was bumpy, and this was the best I could do for a photo.

It was the must fun flight of my short life. I loved the small plane! Once the prop was engaged (LOUD), I could see “through” it. We stayed below the clouds the entire 20 minute flight, and the scenery was great: tracts of waterways, small ponds, lakes, islands of trees, and always, the inlet to the west. Take off and landing were quick and event-less, and a lot less scary than on some of the larger flights I have been on. When I thanked the pilot, I meant it.

Homer. My son-in-law picked me up in the cold and rain. “Where’s your bag?”

“In Canada. Or Seattle, now, hopefully.”

We caw caribou, moose, and bald eagles. I have never seen a wild reindeer before. No photos, sorry.

My bag did not arrive in Kenai by the specified time. The Ravn Alaska (formerly ERA Aviation) clerks bent over backwards to make notes in the computer about the missing bag with the very visible logo. I was advised that *if* the bag was not intercepted in Anchorage and routed directly to Homer… well…

Meanwhile, we went to the local pharmacy/hardware store to purchase a toothbrush for Grandma. My daughter’s cell phone rang as we entered the store.

It arrived in Kenai. Kenai has no direct flights to Homer. It had to return north to Anchorage to be routed directly to Homer. It would arrive in Homer after 10:00PM.

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I woke up late on Saturday morning. This was in front of my door. Everything was intact, except the shampoo bottle in the ziploc™ baggie. Oh, and both wheels were broken off.

From Portland to Seattle to points unknown in Canada, back to Seattle, on to Anchorage, to Kenai, and back to Anchorage. Final destination (and I mean FINAL): Homer.

I borrowed a carry-on with wheels to return home with. The duffel-bag that went to Canada will end its days in Homer, Alaska.

What I really want to know is: how could you grab this bag from the cart and *not* know it was the wrong bag? That logo should have been a dead giveaway. I wonder how embarrassed the other traveler was (and if they got their real bag as quickly, or quicker than, I got my bag back). Male or female? Where in Canada did it fly to?

The moral of this story is: even carry-on bags are not safe on air planes.

And Alaska Air will do everything to get you your bag. Thank you, Alaska Air & your associates, Ravn Alaska.

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