At 4 a.m. Sunday, June 1st, the alarm clock woke Lee and me from our deep sleep on Anna and Jason’s sleeper sofa in Portland. It was a terrible hour to wake up, but on this day, it wasn’t so hard to throw back the covers. We were headed to Alaska.
After quick showers, Anna and Jason (definitely good people) got up and drove us to the airport. Our flight would take us first to Salt Lake City, where a 2 and a half hour layover turned into a 5 and a half hour stop. Something was wrong with the plane – and while delays aren’t fun, I’d rather arrive safely than not at all.
Finally, we were on our way again. The weather had been cloudy for our flight, blocking most of our views. But as we neared Anchorage, mountains suddenly appeared. They were still topped with snow, and I was amazed at how endlessly they seemed to stretch. As far as I could see in every direction was mountain after mountain. I couldn’t see any homes or farms – just wild Alaska.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off the mountains. It was like reading Peter Pan books, then finding out Never-Never Land is a real place. I had been dreaming about Alaska for so long, I couldn’t believe it was actually under the plane.
The landing in Anchorage was less than fairy tale though. The pilot warned us there were 20-30 mile-an-hour winds and to expect bumps. I was okay with bumps. But as we were making our landing, I felt the plane would never steady, and could just imagine a wing clipping the ground and us kartwheeling into eternity. I’m usually fine on planes as long as everyone else around me is keeping their cool. As the plane continued to rock, the overhead bin above us popped open. Curse my 40 pound suitcase. I was a) scared because there was so much turbulence bins were popping open, and b) scared my huge bag was going to fall on someone’s head and kill them. Meanwhile, a woman began screaming “Oh no! Look out!” I thought surely she saw something out her window I couldn’t see. Flames? The Anchorage Coroner? Later, I realized she was yelling about the overhead bin – but at the time, all I knew was someone was screaming.
Then, as the plane continued to rattle and jolt, a man in a center aisle seat boldly snapped off his seatbelt, jumped toward the bin, and snapped it shut. I wanted to yell for him to stop – my suitcase surely wasn’t worth his death. But he made it back into his seat, and about the time he re-fastened his belt, the wheels touched the earth and we were all alive. As we began to get out of our seats, I thanked the man who valiantly risked his safety for my suitcase. He smiled, and pulled a long slender bag from the same bin. “I had to save my fishing pole.” True Alaskan spirit.
We got our rental car – and that was a nice surprise. We booked a Ford Escape, but got a bigger 2003 Ford Explorer. Our hotel was another nice surprise. You never know what you’ll get sometimes, but the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage was a good spot. The lobby was full of dark leather chairs, a fire in the fireplace, and lots of dead animals. All the bears and such were a little creepy, but also very wild and appropriate.
After driving around town for a bit, we ordered some fantastic food from the hotel restaurant, drank a bottle of wine, and crashed. What a long, but exciting day.