Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Cruise Begins

For the first time this trip, the alarm woke me up this morning.  Since we didn’t have to have our suitcases outside our doors until 8 am, I set the alarm for 7:20 am.  Despite having very little exercise yesterday, I slept for nine hours.

Although our luggage was picked up at 8, we don’t need to be checked out of our rooms until noon.  We decided to skip the $18/person breakfast buffet at the hotel (do they use truffle butter in the scrambled eggs?), and I looked for a better place to eat on Yelp.  Apparently, everyone else did as well because when we got to the Snow City Café (rated #1 on Yelp), there was a 40-45 minute wait.  Dad found a seat and I stood.  I noticed a woman speaking with a pronounced New York accent to a Jewish couple I had met at the husky puppy excursion in Denali.  We started talking and they turned out to be from Queens. 

The woman asked where I was from and I said “San Diego.  Can’t you tell by the way I tawk?”  I inherited a small bit of my mother’s Newark accent.  “Oh, New Joisey,” her husband said.  “Now I know you’re from New York,” I told him, “since no one from New Jersey calls it ‘New Joisey.’  That’s what New Yorkers call it.”

They’re going to be in Anchorage for a few days more and they were trying to figure out what to do, because their tour was leaving soon and they couldn’t wait any longer.  They ended up getting take out and she told me I could have their reservations.

“What’s the name?” I asked.
“It’s under ‘Mrs. T’,” she said.
“I’m with my father, so I guess I’m going as transgendered today,” I replied.

Just after her husband came back having made their to-go order, they were called for their table.

“Can I get my to-go order served here?” she asked. the hostess.
“No,” the woman replied, “they’re separate systems.”
“In that case, we want to give our spot to him,” motioning to me.

The hostess agreed and so I profusely thanked the woman and called dad up.  That saved us 30 minutes.

As it happens, the other Jewish couple were seated next to us almost immediately.  They’re also sailing on our ship, but they’re seated in a different rail cabin.  It turns out they are from Connecticut and her parents were both survivors.  We had a nice chat but it’s hard to stay too long when you know there are so many people waiting for tables.  Eventually, we headed back to the hotel, and they went off to see the view of the Cook Inlet, about a block away.

We got back to the hotel at 10 am, which gave us 2 hours to kill before we transfer back to the train for the final leg of our journey to Seward.  Dad took a nap, and I went online to read the New York Times.  I prefer a hard copy, but there’s no wifi on the trains.

Unlike yesterday’s train ride, today’s alternated between mostly rainy and sometimes just overcast.  The train was smaller and we were seated at tables. It was a little cramped, but luckily the couple opposite us chose to sit at an open table so they could sit facing forward (we were assigned tables on our ticket). 

For the first hour and a half of the four hour trip, the Turnagain arm of the Cook Inlet was to our right.  Across it, we could see tall mountains dotted with snow rising out of the water.  Unfortunately, these mountains were mostly obscured by the clouds and rain, though we could occasionally glimpse something greater through gaps.

Dad was very excited about the unusual item he ordered at breakfast:  stuffed French toast.  This was a brioche that was filled with a orange-infused cream cheese and served with a raspberry butter, crushed walnuts, and maple syrup.  He loved it!  (we both ordered it).  It was so filling, though, that he decided to pass up lunch.  I ordered the salmon chowder around 2 pm. 

Eventually, the train began to climb over the Kenai Peninsula.  We had views of several small glaciers near the train, as well as small waterfalls caused by melting snow, ice, and rain.  The sides of the mountain were dark green from the mix of spruce, aspen, and birch.  We did see two moose and, in the far distance, some Dall sheep (they were a group of white dots, but we think they were the famous sheep.  We also spotted an eagle, but couldn’t tell if it was bald or Trump (i.e., Cheeto or gold colored).

After making several “s” turns, we came back down the other side.  One of the two couples across from me were the ones we had eaten with yesterday.  They were discussing politics, so I did my best to eavesdrop.  Since they were from rural Missouri, I had assumed they were Republican, and my assumptions were confirmed.  I was struck by how much I find myself becoming a “team player,” with strong antipathy for those supporting “the other team.” 

I couldn’t hear everything, but he talked about how when he was younger “America was a Christian country.”  Now, it was all changing and the country he knew was disappearing.  He talked about how he didn’t like Trump the man, but sometimes you needed a non-politician to sort things out.  He was sure he wasn’t voting for Hillary, but hadn’t decided if he was voting against Trump.  The other couple was from Northern California, but they were also conservatives.

The conversation turned to the Republican convention, and they talked about Trump’s kids and how well they spoke, and didn’t that say something about how they were raised.  They then transitioned to the recent story of the leaked emails from the DNC and scoffed at the argument from the Clinton camp that this was evidence that the Russians were intervening on behalf of Trump (though I do remember the story from several months ago of how the DNC had discovered that its computers had been hacked by Russia).

When we pulled into Seward it started to rain again, and we made our way through drizzle to the ship.  We had been “checked in” on the train, so we had all our passes and cards.  We found our room in no time at all, then made reservations at the Pinnacle Grill for Monday and Friday nights.

We were a little late for our early dinner seating, owing to the time our train had gotten in, but we had a nice dinner in the main dining room.  Our table mates are Morris, a retired mechanical engineer, and his wife Joy, both from a town near Austin, Texas.  We had some very nice conversations, particularly concerning Morris’ sourdough starter, which is quite famous for how old it is (he’s had it for over 50 years, but it may date from the latter half of the nineteenth century).

Dinner ended before dad could finish his cranberry apple tea as we had the lifeboat drill.  After that, we got details on how the drink package works, the wifi works, and how I could get quarters for the laundry.  We then went to the Deck 5 to listen to classical music, and I ordered a Mexican hot chocolate (with Kahlua).  After waiting a half hour, I got all mine and most of dad’s laundry in the wash.  By 11 pm, I should be in bed.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

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