So Long República Dominicana, Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow (Part Seis)

We had one more full day in the D.R. before reality set in. Didn’t do much on this day except exactly what we wanted. What a drag, to do whatever you want. I guess that could get old. Think it might take a while, though.

I’ll leave you with a few random pictures.

Johnny actually had to work a few hours the last day we were there. The rest of us slept late and well, as I said before, did what we wanted, meaning not much. Here’s Johnny’s office for the day, under a little cabana in a quiet section of the resort. We strolled by to visit the poor working guy. Not a bad little office. I think I could work here.

Chess anyone?

Somehow I managed to walk around poolside for a number of days before I spotted this huge chess board. Nothing slow about me, no sirreee.

Sara and I were strolling the beach and whaddaya know, we ran into some celebrities! In full finery, balloons and all! Ladies and Gentlemen, below is a fuzzy picture of Sara and The Spice Girls…

Such a nice group of girls, and so shy, too!

I haven’t mentioned yet all the entertainment in the evenings. After dinner, we went to see the shows, rain or moon shine (not moonshine, remember this is the land of Mama Juana). Every show was entertaining. We saw The Spice Girls, a Jazz show, and a couple of others. The best one was a Michael Jackson revue. It was raining that night, and we were late and had to stand in the very back of the audience, our butts barely out of the rain. The guy was fantastic, but I did not get a picture of him, unfortunately.

Here we are having fun at one of the evening shows.

Sara and Alex loved the D.R. because it was “legal” for them to drink alcohol. Sara was just shy of 21 on this trip, and Alex is 18. So, poor sober Daniel had to put up with all of us all week. Actually, we behaved ourselves for the most part, and in reality, we pooped out most nights and shut down kind of early. Long days on the beach and running from the storms combined with a couple of afternoon toddies every day just made us want to check in early.

Check it out – Alex is stylin’!

Love Sara’s necklace – and such color coordination!

Here are the old farts…

We all had our new bling on except Johnny. He didn’t want bling, but we’re glad he comes along to buy us bling! Daniel decided to heck with us that night and went back to the room for peace and quiet, and a couple of apple pie à la modes from room service. We actually let the kids order room service on a few nights. We have NEVER done that, but figured WHY THE HECK NOT?

Here are a few pictures of the resort…

Inside one of our rooms… the one with the bed still made.

In the lobby area. The huge lobby area.

Thought this was a neat shot…

I loved this carving. Think he needs some coffee,though.

The World Cup score board…

Unfortunately, vacations have to come to an end. Such a beautiful place, and in spite of the rain, what a lovely vacation we had. All five of us together is a rare treat these days in any location, but so fabulous to spend seven days together in paradise!

Here we are at the airport again.

Passing underneath a Big Ass Fan. That is its name, if you can see in the picture above. Although it looks like you can’t read it without enlarging it, Dumb Ass Camera. There were an abundance of Big Ass Fans in the Punta Cana Airport, and I’m convinced there’s not a more deserving place in the universe for them to be.

A little serenade before boarding the plane. I don’t know what they were singing, but they sure seemed happy to see us go…

Bye-bye, República Dominicana! I hope to come back some day!

That’s It. That’s All She Wrote. That’s The End of This Story. Finally.


Mammajuana Snorkel! (R&R Part Cinco)

The rain cleared up the next day, so the snorkeling trip was on. We took a short drive, then boarded a ferry. Up on the top deck, we could see forever. A couple of family shots aboard the ferry.

Ahoy matie, check out this pirate’s ship…

First stop, before snorkeling, was to pet stingrays. I’ll just say right off, I was not too happy about the conditions here. Johnny and I went to the Cayman Islands a few years ago where we took a sailing excursion. We sailed to a sandbar where the water was 3 feet deep, at which point we got in the water, were handed a bucket of shrimp, and stingrays swarmed us like drunks to a beer joint. We stood holding raw shrimp, and the stingrays swam up to us, around us, even over us, sucking the shrimp from our hands as they passed by. This had been my only experience with stingrays, and we were told at the time to just watch where we stepped, and we would be fine. We were, despite the constant screaming from one woman who spent the entire experience atop the shoulders of her significant other, but that’s another story.

This time, I felt terrible for the stingrays trapped in a small penned area just for our viewing pleasure, and for the $$ we bring to the tourism industry. There were nurse sharks in a second larger pen also. I felt guilty for participating, still I wasn’t going to jump the ferry and refuse to join at this point, but I felt kinda sick as we approached. We had no idea what the situation was for these awesome creatures.

The smaller section you see above was where we pet the stingrays. The barbs on these guys had been removed, so no danger, and thus no chance that these creatures could ever live in the wild again if for some reason they were set free. We didn’t have the opportunity to take pictures of the stingrays. The bigger portion of the pen was where we saw the nurse sharks, and Johnny snapped the picture below.

Here are all five of us in the larger pen with our snorkeling gear. Not the person on the right side, don’t know who this is but he/she does bear a striking family resemblance…

Once we left the prison cells of these poor creatures, we boarded the ferry and headed for our big snorkeling experience. It did not turn out to be so much snorkeling, but it was an experience!

We could not take such good pictures under the water because, as you know, the weather had been stormy, and guess things were stirred up. Here’s one, though.

Oh, what’s this strange white long-legged sea critter…

oh wait, that’s me. I’d know those skinny legs anywhere.

Hey there, Daniel!

About this time we started hearing a horn and lots of yelling. We had been in the water for only a short while, and I finally figured out what the commotion was about. They were yelling at us to get back in the boat. What??? Why?

Which boat, where’s the boat…

We suddenly had some serious weather. Seriously. How surprising!

In the chaos that ensued, well, don’t guess Johnny had much opportunity to document on camera, because the pictures stopped at this point. It was pouring, the seas were rolling, everyone was yelling, heads were bobbing, and I was frantically looking all around for my family. People made their way to the boat and jockeyed for position around the ladder. I saw Daniel, and we managed to grab the ladder, but somehow ended up behind it. The waves were knocking me into the boat and I had to brace myself against the boat with my legs. Just hang on to the ladder, I told Daniel, hoping I didn’t sound as panicked as I felt. We waited for others to get on board and tried to squeeze in to line up at the ladder. I saw Sara and Alex off in the distance, and yelled at them to get on the boat. They said, MOM, we are fine. Get on the boat! So, Daniel and I got on the boat, Sara and Alex got on the boat, and I did not see Johnny anywhere.

People gathered under the upper deck of the boat for shelter, except for me. I could still see bodies in the distance trying to get back to the boat. A conversation Johnny and I had before we got in the water was now stuck in my brain. Johnny was intent on signing a waiver allowing him to forego a life jacket while snorkeling since he’s practically a fish. Practically. We discussed this, and whether the kids should do this also… NOT, said mom, and not me either, by the way. I did not remember or really know if he ever signed that waiver.

Rain pouring, I was seriously in a panic by now, visions of Johnny being swept away, and single motherhood looming before me. I yelled at one of the guys working the boat… THERE IS SOMEONE STILL IN THE WATER OUT THERE!!! He said, lady, we’re getting everyone, don’t you worry. BUT I THINK THAT MIGHT BE MY HUSBAND OUT THERE!!! Then from behind me, I think it was Alex, said … Uh, Mom, Dad’s over here…

Oh, really??? Don’t you worry about me dear, I’m just over here sucking down the Mama Juana shots… Well, I’m so glad you’re safe honey!

It was a sight. Boat rocking, rain pouring, music blaring, the dancing had begun. The rain had slowed by the time this next picture was taken. I only show it to illustrate what a shot of Mama Juana can do for you. It doesn’t make you beautiful, but it can make you lose all manner of dignity and not care that you’re not beautiful, and have great fun doing it.

On second thought, this has to be someone else, it could not possibly be me…

So, in spite of my distaste for the penned up stingrays and nurse sharks during the first part of this excursion, I was grateful to the tour operators for saving our scrawny butts from the storm. It was dicey, and they did an admirable job of getting everyone back to the boat safe and sound. They were also incredibly entertaining!

Mama Juana, by the way, is defined below by Wikipedia, that indisputable source of superfluous information:

Mama Juana is a drink from the Dominican Republic that is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. The taste is quite similar to port wine and the color is a deep red. It is seen and advertised as an aphrodisiac, with many natives of the Dominican Republic claiming that the drink has similar effects to Viagra. Women have also claimed that Mama Juana enhances sexual desire.”

I can vouch for the port wine taste, but that’s as far as this discussion will go…

One more post ought to do it, final thoughts and pictures regarding our experience at the resort, and our departure. You gotta stay tuned for the finale!

And the Rains Came Down (R&R Part Four)

Oh, the rains came down and the floods came up.  They really did.  All day long the day after our trip to Saona Island, Tropical Storm Alex let loose on the Dominican Republic.  If you’ve ever wondered what rain looks like coming off of a thatched roof, well, here you go. 


I loved the thatched roofs.  What’s even better, they don’t leak!  We sat under them all day and watched the weather.  A couple of us even enjoyed the weather!  If you’ll notice in the background, the workers are sweeping the rain water into drains to keep it from coming into the dining area.  By the way, Daniel was NOT looking at the camera, but rather at something incredibly interesting over there

and again, Daniel was NOT looking at the camera, but this time at something fascinating up there… and Alex was NOT enjoying the rain, and was likely bummed at the prospect of little or no beach time in his immediate future.

Daniel is wearing his official USA World Cup jersey.  If I didn’t mention it before, our vacation began shortly after the World Cup started this year.  We saw World Cup jerseys from many countries, and we heard plenty of World Cup banter in various languages.  Interesting week to be in the D.R.!  

Here’s a little crab who was unfortunate enough to cross our path that morning.  He was kinda pissed at us, a bit crabby, in fact, but we didn’t have so much to do so we had to play with him.

Poor Sara was a little under the weather on this rainy day… get it, she was under the weather?  Weren’t we all?  She more so than the rest of us, though.  In fact, she stayed in the room most of the day.  We checked on her from time to time when the monsoon eased, and brought her medicine.  She finally emerged in the late afternoon, still feeling a little iffy.

Meanwhile, the rest of us had already drank our weight in alcohol for the day (well, not Daniel).  He’s only 14.  I’m not that bad of a mother.  My personal favorite was called a Banana Mama.  Not to be confused with the Mama Juana, which I’ll talk about next time.  The Banana Mama is practically fruit in a glass, with rum, of course.  See below for a possible recipe I snatched from this website:

Banana Mama

1-1/2oz. light rum
1/2oz. dark rum
1 oz. banana liqueur
1 oz. cream of coconut
1 oz. fresh or frozen strawberries
2 oz. pineapple juice

1.  In blender, combine light rum, dark rum, banana liqueur, cream of coconut, strawberries and pineapple juice with 3 oz. crushed ice.

2.  Blend until smooth

3.  Pour into goblet, and well, you know what to do next.

That’s one of the many recipes I found, but it sounds about right.  A wedge of pineapple on the side was the only visible fruit, maybe a cherry.  Should have taken a picture of one, darn!

So… we had a decent buzz going.  When it rains, you gotta do something.  Drink and play cards, I say! 

We purchased this card deck from the little store at the resort since our cards were in our room and we were not.  This deck was labeled Naipes playing cards.  Numbered 1 through 12, the cards had some funny pictures, and no face cards.  I just thought it was a Spanish deck, but I now see several descriptions of Naipes playing cards on the net (including tarot cards) so who knows what we were playing with.  I’m not sure if I’m going to hell for playing poker, playing with tarot cards, or drinking excessively.  I’m pretty sure neither of those things are acceptable tenets of Methodist doctrine…

In between games and watching the rain, we took pictures and walked around when it wasn’t pouring.  Here are a couple of more pictures of a flamingo.

and a turtle…

Here’s a picture of Sara, feeling much better!  Or could be she was under some kind of spell after that card game…

Until next time…  Stay tuned for our snorkeling excursion!

Mammajuana Go to Saona Island (R&R Part Three)

Life keeps getting in the way of my blog, yet I will eventually finish this tale, if you will just hang in there with me. 

Our first “excursion” on this vacation was a trip to Saona Island.  It took a few hours to get there from our resort.  More than an hour by land, and then the rest by sea, as you would expect because it is, well, an island. 


Our bus picked us up a little bleary and unfed (the dining rooms weren’t open yet) early, early in the morning and, lucky us, we were the first stop.  Meaning we spent probably 45 minutes just picking up other people at other resorts.  Nap time for Alex…

Once everyone was aboard, our driver took us through the beautiful Dominican Republic countryside and educated us a bit on the history and the lives of the people in this country. 

The native people are descendants of Spaniards and Africans.  The Africans were brought to the D.R. as slaves in the early 1500’s, as the world seemed wont to do during that period.  Most people today are poor and live in villages.  Their houses are what we in  the U.S. might refer to as shacks.  The nicer houses are made of concrete, and painted in various colors. 

Farming is the main industry in the D.R., the chief crops are sugar cane and tobacco, but also fruits such as papayas, mangos and bananas.  Cattle farming is another big industry here.  While in the U.S. meat processing takes place beyond consumers’ eyes, not so here.  They skin the bodies right on the street, which we witnessed outside some of the shops that we passed by.

Not many cars in the D.R.  Most people travel by scooter, if they have a vehicle at all.  They carry multiple people on these little scooters and transport EVERYTHING.  Our driver told us that he once saw someone toting a washing machine on the back of a scooter, and we did see several people carrying propane tanks on their scooters.  I tried to get a picture, but moving targets, you know.

We drove through the main city in the region, Higüey, past the shops and daily commerce.  As you can tell by the clouds and the wet roads, it was raining off and on.

Here is a park in Higüey.  Note the murals of the Disney characters!

…and the most famous and significant landmark, La Basilica de Higüey, the religious destination of locals and foreignors alike.  Except for us.  We were on our way to an island, but the driver slowed down so we could snap pictures.  Apparently, the interior is also a marvel to behold.

During our ride, we were cruising down the road and heard a loud snap, of sorts.  Not such a good noise.  We stopped, and the driver got out and examined the bus, then came back to tell us we had ourselves a situation.  While it was not a mechanical emergency, we had a choice to make.  We could limp to a little store and wait for a new bus, or we could suffer to our destination and a new bus would be there at the end of our trip.  We chose to suffer, and suffer we did.  No air conditioning.  As I mentioned earlier, the humidity in the D.R. is incredible.  We put on our big girl panties and endured.  We were not so sweet smelling when we finally arrived at our drop off point, but we finally arrived, sweat and all.  I don’t remember what this place was called, but it looked a little like a bombed-out war zone.


This was a resort under construction, but the developer was stopped for non-payment of taxes.  Not an uncommon sight in the region.

We walked down the path you see in the picture above to the pier to catch our speedy ride to the island.

Back to the deep blue sea.  You can see our ride at the end of the pier in the picture above, but here’s what we looked like while we were riding…

This was actually another boat on the same excursion, but as you can’t get a picture quite like this of yourself riding in a speed boat, we’ll just have to assume that we looked way cooler than they did.

See what I mean?

A little scenery as we’re passing by.  Look at this blue-green water!


We stopped in the middle of the boat ride to cool off, and search for starfish and such on a little sand bar.

Notice (several pictures above) the bow of the boat.  At high speeds like this, the bow is so high you wonder how the captain can even see to drive.  Well, turns out he can’t.  We were speeding along, and suddenly our captain swerved mightily, we heard a sickening metal kabam, and felt a jolt.  We stopped, and here’s why…

We seriously hit this boat.  Apparently unattended, maybe a runaway from a not so far away dock, I still hope.  We circled the boat a few times, didn’t see any sign of life… gulp… and forged ahead.  No damage, or not much to our boat.  Yep, we just left this little boat in the middle of the ocean for someone else to find.  I’m hoping they at least radioed to someone, anyone, to come fetch this little runaway, but it was out of our hands.

Close call, but here we are, finally, on the island. Yes, I am taking a long time to get to the point, aren’t I? But, you know what they say, it’s all about the journey…

The beautiful Island of Saona.  We had a lunch of questionable worth here (not complaining, but hey, it just wasn’t so good), but considering all the excitement so far, and the fact that we had not eaten yet, we had no problem chowing down.  The beach here was not any more beautiful than the beach at our resort, and there were more shells and so it was tough on your feet entering the water.  Still a beautiful place, though. 

Johnny and I took a walk, and it started to pour.  It started to pour every time we took a walk on the beach during our trip .  Yeah, thank you Alex!  Tropical Storm and soon to be Hurricane Alex!

The rain didn’t persist the whole time, so we still had fun.


We were told, rather warned, ahead of time of the commerce on the beach.  We were approached right in our lounge chairs by people selling hats, jewelry, cigars. 

Cigars, anyone?


Palm frond hats?

Time to leave.  The trip back was on a sailboat instead of a speedboat.  Slower paced, probably safer, unless the weather picked up again…


Great picture of Dan the Man…

The day was now etched into our memories, and onto the bottle of mamajuana herbs below.     

Mamajuana, sweet nectar of the Dominican Republic!  It’ll put hair on your chest!  Hmmm, think I’ll have some.

More to come…

R&R in the D.R. – In the Beginning (Primero)

In honor of Alex’s graduation, we let him pick our vacation destination this summer. Well, we let him pick the kind of vacation we would have, because “I want to go to the beach” isn’t terribly helpful. So, off to the travel agent we went, thinking an all-inclusive resort somewhere so we wouldn’t constantly have to decide matters such as, what are we going to do? Go to the beach, of course. Where do we eat every day? How much alcohol can we afford to drink? Can we afford to eat like kings & queens for an entire week? When you pay for it all up front those decisions are, for the most part, already made. Sort of like a cruise, and we have so enjoyed the two cruises we have been on.

Playa del Carmen and Costa Rica came to mind, we never even considered the Dominican Republic at first. We ended up picking the Dominican Republic largely because of price! Our travel agent convinced us it was beautiful, and for a price tag of $2,000 less than other places we had considered, we felt like bargain hunters in a thrift store. Sort of.

Map courtesy of

I knew that the Dominican Republic was in the Caribbean. It still is, actually :0). I don’t want to sound like a dummy here (duh, too late), but I’ve never been so good at Geography. I confess I didn’t realize at first that the D.R. is actually connected to Haiti. We’d heard all the stories about how callous the cruise lines were for docking cruise ships close to Haiti so soon after the devastating earthquake. We certainly didn’t want to feel like voyeurs to this tragedy, given that aftershocks had occurred not too long before we booked this trip. However, we were flying into Punta Cana located at the opposite end of the island. What if, OMG, what if another earthquake occurred while we were there? Not to sound callous like the cruise lines, but again, we would be on the opposite end of the island. So I crossed that worry off of my list.

The only worries that remained? What to wear, of course, and getting our 5 collective butts to the airport with all the stuff we needed in time to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight and, it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway, the plane crashing. I have said a prayer over each and every plane I’ve ever flown in, and also flights that my significant others have taken without me. If I’m traveling on a plane, I must touch the outside of the plane upon boarding and say a silent little prayer before the flight attendant can pry my hand off and direct me to my seat. So, now you know my little ritual. It has worked for me every time…

As every trip must have a beginning, here we are in the beginning (except me, I’m on the other end of the camera), bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:00 a.m. boarding the shuttle to the airport.

A little desolate at D/FW Airport at 5:30 a.m.!

We saw this strange object and felt obliged to point it out to the kids. This thing here, kids, is a p-a-y-p-h-o-n-e, and back in the day… I mean, when is the last time you saw one of these things?

On the plane (after said touching-praying ritual described above)…

…and to make Sara happy, here are the goofy ones.

Daniel didn’t get the memo.

and shortly after takeoff…

We were on our way to some fun in the sun! Definitely fun. I’ll fill you in on the sun part soon. Turns out these terms can be mutually exclusive…

Alaska, Part Four (or, Why I Really Like Ice Water)

Where does a 90,000 pound ship go?  Anywhere it wants to, or at least anywhere it can.  At a length of 962 feet, and a width (or beam if you prefer the nautical term) of  105.6 feet, you need a pretty confident and skilled captain to take this enormous ship down Tracy Arm Fjord.  Good thing we had one, because even more important, it was El Capitan’s job to make sure we could get back out.  With 2,500 people aboard, and only a week’s worth of groceries and booze, it would have been a bitch to run out.  … and if you think El Capitan just throws the gears in reverse and backs out, nope, that’s not how it works.  In fact, El Capitan just turned us around as if on an axis and took us out bow first.  Aren’t you impressed?  Not with El Capitan, but with me and my fluent use of nautical terms?

I don’t know how wide Tracy Arm Fjord is, but let’s just say that Tony Romo could throw a football from either side of the ship and maybe hit land.  Oh, all right.  Probably not, but shore was closer than you would think safe.

Here’s where we were headed:

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A close up of some ice water:

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This was a fairly large chunk of ice.  These “floaters,” as I shall refer to them (no, not the floaters in your eyes, and not the other ones either) were everywhere.   So what happens if the ship hits these floaters?  Well, nothing if the ship is going slow enough, and nothing if the ice is not so large that it’s still attached to the bottom of the ocean.  If that’s the case, then by definition it wouldn’t really be a floater, would it?  Glad I’m not El Capitan!

Here’s a great shot:

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Waterfalls were everywhere.  It made me think about global warming, and the melting glaciers, and how our great, great, grandchildren may not get to see this stuff.

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Speaking of glaciers, in this case the business end of the fjord, here we are at Sawyer Glacier.  I’m not sure if this is the North or South Sawyer glacier – such adorable twins, but they’re huge!

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The decks were crammed with people and cameras, including us … and when we managed to get a great vantage point, we were reluctant to move.  Then El Capitan turned the ship around and suddenly we had the crappy seats.  Well, not so crappy, as this was truly one occasion when the crappy seats were actually pretty good … but there were better ones.  So, off we went again in search of the very best spot.  You have to admit, this is a great spot for a picture.  The three of us managed to find each other, and we swapped picture-taking favors with another shipmate.   

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Check out the cute pink jacket.  Yep, got it on the ship.  It’s a bona fide Royal Carribean windbreaker.  Not so warm, but it is pink and it is cute, so that makes up for most anything … 

The weather was unbelievably warm during most of the cruise, considering we were sailing in Alaskan waters and ice was all around.  The only cold days were the days we just sailed and had no stops.  On those days, it was misty, windy and foggy (foghorns even blew all night one night).  …and speaking of nights, well, not too much night to speak of.  About four hours tops, I’d say. 

One of the nights, we went dancing at the Vortex club with Sara and with Chuck and Kelly (family members you will see more of in Juneau).  We were looking out of the windows at 1:00 a.m., and still it wasn’t dark.  It’s hard to believe Johnny and I were up at that hour, and not only up, but up dancing.  Not so hard to believe that Sara was up.  Parties don’t start in college until 1:00 a.m., so she was just getting warmed up.  We had a great time, but I paid for it the next day.  My hips paid throughout the next week.

Back to the fjord … while we were down at the business end, our cruise director, Mike, and a few of his mates took one of the rescue boats as close to the Sawyer twin (I just can’t tell them apart!) as they dared.  I never knew this before, but it is dangerous to get too close to a glacier in a boat because of calving, or ice falling from the glacier (and here I thought calving meant the birthing of cute little baby cows), and also because sometimes glacier ice shoots up from the ocean floor to become, you guessed it, a floater.  While awesome to witness, it’s best to view this action from afar. 

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Their goal was to find a piece of ice (yes, I said ice …) and bring it back to the ship for an ice carving.  An ambitious endeavor, and it took a while to find just the right piece. 

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Aha, got one!

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Daniel and I raced inside to watch them bring it aboard.

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Bigger than you thought it was!

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Now, here’s the stoopid part.  We never went back to see what they carved it into.  What a great way to pull this all together, a picture of the finished carving, and I missed it.  What a dork I am. 

20090707_106 (Small)We ran into Johnny’s parents enjoying the view, and a little snack.  What a view!  I think they had the best seats, and they weren’t doing all that running around!

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We saw quite a few seals sunning themselves on the floaters. 

… and déjà vu, back out the way we came. 

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More to come, so I’ll be back in a few days with the final Alaska post!

Alaska, Part Three (Skagway, or How We Survived the Crazy Train)

All Aboard … ahahahahahahahaha …

I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.  Who knew this would be about Ozzy Osbourne???  Not me!  It’s really about Skagway, and the White Pass train ride.  Ok, maybe not so crazy, but I did feel a little crazy when I looked down.   For the record, Ozzy is still on the crazy train …

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Here’s what we saw when we stepped off the ship in Skagway.  Graffiti!   Hard to tell from the picture, but all over the face of the mountain, up and down the dock, are hand-painted pictures, each with the name of a ship, a symbol, usually a year dating back decades in some cases, and the name of the ship’s captain.  Dozens of paintings, perhaps even hundreds.

Here’s a close-up of the side of our ship, and another ship in front of it.  Did you know they can parallel park these things?  Hmmph.  Doesn’t say too much for my driving skills. 20090708_006 (Small)

A picture of my tiny husband next to our super-sized mother ship …

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We chose a different excursion than the rest of the crew in Skagway.  Crew, get it?  a little sailing lingo???  The rest of the family wanted to get up close and personal with some Alaskan sled dogs.  Even though it’s not winter, you can see how the dogs are raised, hold the puppies and, in theory, ride on a dog-pulled sled on wheels.  It was too warm for the dogs to pull the sleds, or something like that, but they did get to hold puppies, I think.  So, while I’m sorry I didn’t get to hold puppies, I’m glad I rode the crazy train!

The crowd was unbelievable in Skagway.  Four cruise ships were in port and it’s just an itty bitty little town!  That’s about 8,000 extra people in a little town all beating a path to the little stores to pick out little souveniers.  We went in this store, along with a few thousand of our closest shipmates …20090708_011 (Small)


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Ok, so where are all the people in this picture?  I told you, they’re all in the Alaskan Shirt Co. store!

… and here’s a cool car. 

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 That’s about all the pictures I have of the town, but here is our crazy train.

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… and here are a few of the  lunatics inside:

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 Skagway was sort of the “jumping off” point of the gold rush in the late 1890’s.  It was the port where hundreds of gold seekers arrived before braving the brutal conditions into the Yukon through White Pass on horses.  Before the railroad was built over White Pass, hundreds of horses, overburdened with gear, died on this trail when their riders drove them in horrible conditions until they died, and then left them to rot and continued on their way.  The area where this tragedy occurred is known as Dead Horse Gulch.  Yessirree, gold just brings out the very best in people …

We had alternately foggy and clear skies, but we heard that a wildfire was burning somewhere (60 miles or so away) which accounted for the fog.  Looking back at the cruise ships – I only see three here, but the missing fourth ship is hiding behind the mountain to the left.  It was the one parallel parked in front of our ship.

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 Apparently, some pretty “sick” rapids through this area (as the kids like to say).  That phrase has taken me by surprise, but I finally get it.  Anyway, I don’t think these are Level 6 rapids, but I remember hearing something about Level 6 rapids somewhere along the Yukon river.  To be honest, I’m not even sure this is the Yukon river, but seems reasonable to me.  Geography people out there, please feel free to tell me what river this is …  

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  A couple of family pics:

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More beautiful scenery …

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…and the camera flash on the rock as we’re going through this tunnel.

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20090708_094 (Small)I don’t know if that’s an eagle on top of the rock, but let’s just say that it is.

 We actually crossed the border into Canada, but because we never stopped, we didn’t have to go through customs.  Then the train turned around and returned to Skagway.

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Not so noticeable in the pictures, but the landscape changed as we crossed into Canada.  The land was flatter, plants were much smaller, a little more snow in the crevices.  Tundra, they called it, although I always pictured tundra as a giant expanse of flat solid ice.  Guess I slept through the lecture in 5th grade on seasons in the tundra.  Anyway, the trees were tiny, but some were hundreds of years old.  Not much survives through the winter here, but whatever does survive is severely stunted. 

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Here are a few pictures from the return trip to Skagway.  When we weren’t worried about the crazy train running off the rails (heh heh), we were seriously worried about our lungs.  The wind was, shall I say, not in our favor on the return trip.  We were in the first car behind the engine, and I learned not to ever, ever, ever ride in the first car behind the engine ever, ever, ever again.  The wind was blowing the exhaust from the engine straight into the car we were in.  So we had the choice of staying in the sweltering car with the doors shut and no air flow, opening the door in the hopes a little fresh air might come in with the carbon monoxide, or going out on the landing for the full assault of exhaust mixed with fresh air.  Not such a great choice!  We did it all, and none of it worked!

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Some of us did get sleepy on the ride back.  Or it could have been the carbon monoxide …

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If you look real close, you might see the grave of the most notorious scoundrel in Skagway’s history, Soapy Smith, who got his name selling soap (yep, the fearsome and dangerous soap salesman) … ah, it’s complicated.  I’ll let you look it up.  Anyway he and another fellow shot each other and both of them died.  Soapy was buried outside of the city limits far away from respectable folks, including the respectable fellow he shot.  Nah, you can’t really see it …

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The crazy train didn’t go off the rails and we finally made it back to solid ground.20090708_172 (Small)

Poor kid, Daniel didn’t get the memo …

Stay tuned, Tracy Arm Fjord is next!