Weekend relaxation, Alaska style
It’s my last night in Juneau. I am making Debbie get up at the ass crack of dawn to take me to the airport for my 6am flight. Why must I fly so early in the morning? I never get any sleep the night before a flight this early, and it sucks having to get up. I’ll remember for next time.
The weekend was really fun. On Fri Debbie, CB and I did about a 9 mile round trip hike to Granite Creek, another destination off Perseverance Trail. Again, it poured down rain the entire time. And yet, again it was a great day. Debbie and I picked salmonberries compulsively, filling a couple Ziplock bags with them (I may have written about this already).
After drying off and having some tea, we walked downtown, where cruise ships like this one dock and unleash bunches of tourists on the nearby stores:
Most of the stores seem to be jewelers, though there are also tons of places to buy t-shirts, moose and bear “droppings” (who knew wild game pooped delicious chocolate treats?), and novelty items like Alaska playing cards and salad tongs. Oh, and kettle corn. If you haven’t had kettle corn, you are definitely missing out. It’s regular popcorn popped with sweet kernels, but not as sweet as caramel corn. Debbie and I ate lots of a bag of kettle corn, to prepare our digestive tracts for dinner, which we ate at a place called The Hangar with Debbie’s friends Chuck and Sante.
Debbie delivered Chuck and Sante’s 2-year-old son, who apparently is a big music fan, The Eagles in particular, and can sing anything from their entire oeuvre. Including, I made sure to confirm, my favorite part of Heartache Tonight: “We can beat around the bush or we can get down to the bone, we can leave it in the parking lot but either way there’s gonna be a heartache tonight, a heartache tonight, I know.” Sadly, I have not seen him in concert, but according to Chuck, Sante, and Debbie, he’s very talented.
Dinner was fun; it was Chuck and Sante’s weekly night out and Debbie and I were glad they decided to spend it with us. We had a great, far-ranging conversation, including one part where I had to defend Brazilian jiu jitsu because of a story Sante read in Slate about how BJJ is the “gayest martial art.” I call bullshit on that because usually when I’m doing BJJ, I’m doing it with a dude. So I think they mean it is the most SEXUAL martial art. (BTW, see the BJJ glossary on my main page http://www.valerieworthington.com/ for discussion of the disparagement of BJJ because it looks “sexual.” It ain’t.)
Anyway, in another part of the conversation, I mentioned to Chuck, who along with Sante was born and raised in Alaska (Chuck in Skagway, Sante in Juneau), that in my conversations with people who live in Alaska, one or two of them have implied or out and out stated that they came here because of run-ins with the law in other parts of the country. Chuck allowed as how that’s not actually uncommon, and suggested that if you go after hours to the Denny’s in Fairbanks (the northernmost Denny’s in the world, btw), you’re likely to see a restaurant full of people who are happier with a little distance between themselves and law enforcement. (For the record, the people who have mentioned to me that that’s their reason for being here are actually quite lovely and friendly.)
Here is a picture of us, Debbie, Sante, Chuck, and me:
Yesterday was another great day: in the morning, another client of Debbie’s was able to finagle us two spots on a whale watching boat—for free. The client is friends with the guy who captains the boat. He is also friends with Debbie, and they took great care of us. Those tickets are usually pretty expensive, so we lucked out. And according to Debbie, who’s been on a couple of these expeditions, we saw some good whale. Debbie actually saw a whale breach completely out of the water; I mostly saw blow holes and tails, but it was still way cool. Here are some pics of the tails:
Our guide was very informative, explaining that humpbacked whales are about the size of a school bus, that they eat about 2000 pounds of food a day, and that the males sing a song to woo the females during mating season. Every year or two the males alter the song a little bit, ostensibly because the females get bored easily and need some new tunes to get in the mood. The coolest thing was the description of how the whales work together to eat, using a technique called the bubble net. One whale swims around a bunch of food (krill, plankton, herring) exhaling a steady stream of bubbles. The bubbles create a tube that traps the food in a small space, and then the other whales swim up the tube eating the trapped food.
It’s nice that the whales work together. This was not my experience growing up, where especially if there were desserts in the house, you had to engage in what my family called “defensive eating:” even if you didn’t want some of the dessert at a given point, you ate it then and there, because there would be no later. So basically, I’m saying that the whales are better at adhering to the Golden Rule than my own family.
Yesterday was also the first day since I’ve been here where the sun actually came out! So of course it was also a day on which I decided to take a ginormous nap. I thought I might be coming down with something, and I’m hoping I slept it off. But it was only about 2 hours, and then Shane took us to the firing range so we could play with some more of his toys: GUNS.
We fired some pistols, specifically a .22, a .22 mag, and a .40, as well as Raging Bull, a giant pistol with a scope. Raging Bull had a pretty big kick, so I was glad that Shane instructed me to keep my arms straight while firing; otherwise I would have gotten clocked in the face.
Then we moved on to the rifles and the shotgun. Rifles and shotguns are far easier to shoot, which is why Shane had us start with the pistols. I also finally learned the difference between a rifle and a shotgun: a rifle shoots a bullet that contains a small amount of gunpowder while a shotgun shoots a cartridge that contains a bunch of BBs that spray everywhere. As Shane said, “It’s easy to do some damage with a shotgun.” I have decided that if I ever need to get shot for any reason, I’ll get shot with a rifle or a pistol rather than a shotgun.
So here are some pics of us at the firing range. It was a blast, no pun intended!
Practicing "gun safety:"
My newest fashion accessory:
Setting up the targets:
The .40, the .22, and the .22 mag
Lining up the sights:
What it looks like when you know what you're doing:
Mild freakout when the gun malfunctioned (I pulled the trigger but nothing happened):
Is it wrong to be having so much fun?
The couple that shoots together...
Shooting Raging Bull:
Scrutinizing Shane's technique to see if I can pick up some pointers:
Busting out the rifles:
Protecting my hearing, in style:
Me reacting to the damage the shotgun does:
Look at that!
Needless to say, we worked up an appetite shooting at things, so then we had a quintessentially Alaskan dinner: moose meat fajitas, smoked caribou steak, and ice cream with the salmonberries Debbie and I picked.
Oh, and Debbie and Shane think it’s hilarious that I am blogging all the time, so here is a picture Shane took of me writing about what I’m experiencing instead of actually experiencing something. It’s a hard balance to strike. I think I'm becoming some kind of David Sedaris wannabe, because apparently whenever he has a conversation with a member of his family, the family member asks, "Oh, God, you're not going to write about that, are you?" And then he lies and says no. I don't write about things if people don't want me to, but more than one person has expressed surprise that something they said ended up immortalized here.
The best part, of course, is that while I was blogging, Shane was sitting next to me cleaning guns. I just have never been around guns very much, so they intrigue and scare me, and when I was younger, I had the not very reasoned belief that guns = bad. Fortunately, in recent years I have had the opportunity to spend time around guns under the supervision of people I know who are extremely responsible and intelligent about them. Well, except for Debbie, who pointed that rifle at me. And except for me, who didn’t even have the good sense to be nervous that there was a rifle pointed at me. But I’m thinking of my uncle George in particular, who was the first person to take me shooting. He is incredibly safe with his guns and it’s clear that the majority of people who own them are responsible and thoughtful. I still like a middle man between me and my meat, but shooting inanimate stuff is COOL.
Sunday was another sunny day, so we did a couple hikes, one on Douglas Island, and one near the airport. CB took it upon himself to bathe in the mud several times, complete with the barking/singing that characterizes his other baths. Then he took it upon himself to shake off the excess mud right in front of me and Debbie. Thanks, CB! Debbie and I compulsively picked blueberries this time. Then when we went to take a few out of the bag, we saw a crapload of worms. I guess you have to soak the berries in salt water to get rid of the worms, but I don't want to think about how many worms I may have eaten just popping a berry or two in my mouth on the trail.
And now here I am blogging, enduring CB’s gas, getting ready to get up at 3:30am for my flight. It’s been a terrific week, and I’m excited and apprehensive to get back on the road. Juneau has been safe and comfortable, and now it’s back to the unknown. I’m excited to train again and to see my car again, but I will miss Debbie, Shane, and the dogs! Thanks to them for showing me such a wonderful time!