Author Topic: circling the globe  (Read 4360 times)

Online m65

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #30 on: March 29, 2020, 08:25:40 PM »
PART 5-
we came to HNL for our flight, and had to go thru customs leaving from hawaii to the mainland. there were signs all over saying that u are not allowed to take pineapple and other fruits into the mainland. we went thru, and came to checkin. i had an old cancelled BOA alaskan card which i planned on using to get a free suitcase, but the system wouldnt accept it. we went to the agent to complain, and made sure to compliment her and exclaim ever so loudly what a great agent she was, and to ask her about her family and to wonder why alaskan doesnt give her and her family free tickets to vacation in alaska. eventually she manually put in the free suitcase for both of us and didnt say a word about both of them being 10 lb overweight.
the overnight flight/hotel was comfortable, i must say i was impressed with the space and comfort of alaskan airlines, and we landed in ANC at about 6 am on tuesday Nov 19th. dont let that number 6 fool u. 6 am is in middle of the night. sunrise was aprox. 9:30 that morning. i dont remember what time zman krias shma was, but i do remember thinking that it was a yeshiva bochur's bein hazmanim dream.
we went to the budget desk and rented a full size pickup. it took a couple of minutes to get used to the size, and getting it down around those tiny ramps leaving the airport parking lot was a little nerve wrecking. we headed out of anchorage towards talkeetna, and as soon as we left the city, i started one of the hardest drives of my life. ive been driving for almost 15 years, and have been thru many extreme scenarios, but i really wasnt prepared for this. zero visibility, pouring snow and sleet, the lane markings are totally covered, and very rarely are there road lights. much of the time i wasnt sure if im on the road or the shoulder or the opposite direction lane. signs are not visible at all, and allot of the time i had no idea if im driving in a 2 lane road going in 1 direction or if the left lane is oncoming traffic.
it was supposed to be about a 2 hour drive, but it took me well over double that amount. we also had to stop in every gas station we saw, because of all those warnings that in alaska u always have to have a full tank. heres a small tip if u ever drive one of those monster gas guzzling ford pickups. when u fill up on gas make sure to switch off the engine. if u dont u may never hit the full mark :) .
eventually we got to talkeetna, im sure my mothers tefilos by the shabbos candles had something to do with that. we pulled up to what we assumed was probably supposed to be the parking spot next to talkeetna inn. again, being that everything is just one big block of snow, anything to do with driving is at best an assumption. it took quite a while to wake up out of his/her (we never figured out which one it was) hibernation the one who was supposed to open up for us. when we finally got ahold of him/her. he/she told us your room is room 101 and the code on the door is 1234. so we promptly marched into room 101, only to wake up another hibernating him. we frantically called back him/her and repeated what had happened. him/her apologized and said i made a mistake, ur room is 102. what is the code? u guessed it- 1234. after room 101's story repeating itself in room 102, we dialed again him/her's number and insisted on a room without company. him/her told us, "oh im so sorry, ur room was supposed to be 103". the code wasnt very hard to guess, 1234. very comforting indeed.
after our little saga, we were actually pleasantly surprised by the size and comfort of the room. the heating was working, and here and there the toilet managed to flush. we changed clothes and got started on finding what we had came to alaska for. dog mushing. we called a bunch of numbers but most of them told us that the snow had just started falling that week (i really cant imagine how it looks after a month) and that the trails werent ready yet. eventually we found one, AK sled dog tours, that said if we gave him a few hours he would get the trail and the dogs ready. being that we didnt have any other choice we accepted. it was quite pricey, about $150 per person, but we werent about to leave alaska w/o it, so we bargained for a servicemen discount and reserved.
with a few hours to spare we went into town to have a look. at the local grocery, we shmoozed up the sales boy, and he took us up to the second floor and showed us tens of different furs his family had hunted over the years. wolves, bears, etc. it is actually interesting to hold up a full body of a wolf, which minus the insides, is still in the exact same shape as it was when it roamed the wild.
we then headed to talkeetna airport to see if we could reserve for the next day a flight to denali. they werent sure if the weather would allow it, but meanwhile they showed us a screening (full wall) of what the trip to the mountain peaks had to offer. after that we were quite disappointed to hear that there was no way they would be able to fly that day or the next. but being plenty smarter after that mornings drive, we couldnt disagree. they did allow us to tour ourselves the airport and the planes, and we had a grand time climbing into all these tiny little 4-8 seaters and posing for a bunch of different exciting looking pictures.
at the appointed time we were picked up by 2 of the dog sled hims (no doubt this time). although the actual sledding is only about 45 minutes, the process u have to go thru in order to get to those 45 minutes is almost as hard as converting to reform judaism. for an hour and a half u have to hear the whole history of every one of the hundreds of dogs in their farm. u have to hear replays of every one of the last 10 iditarod's and u must know exactly what place each one of the dogs came into, including explanations of why in 1997 "snuggly" (or whatever else the name is) only came in 4th place even though that in 1996 and 1998 he made it to 3rd place. only when u are totally convinced that they are doing this 100% lshem shamayim w/o any thought of profit, and when u are 50% convinced that as soon as u get home u r gonna sell ur house divorce ur wife, and devote the rest of ur days to this wonderful sport, do they allow u to actually don the special garments and shoes u need for the actual sledding. they then with an awed tone of voice offer u the privilege of donning the actual jacket of the trainer. not just any jacket, but the actual jacket that he wore when he won the iditarod. after that they take u around to personally meet all those special dogs that u spent the last hour and a half of youre life learning about. (one of the hims, after hearing that i have 4 children at home, told me "i have 100 children" as he pointed lovingly at his stables.)
eventually they do let u actually mush. IT IS AMAZING. exhilarating blood rushing pleasure. seriously the most fun activity i have ever done. 8 dogs tied to the sled, each one of them screaming and yelling on the top of its lungs, lunging forward at full speed as if they were being chased by tigers. we took turns between sitting on the sled and standing on/driving the sled. the speed is about 15-20 mph, as these crazy dogs turn the bends ur sled goes sledding and bumping along the way. u have to hold on for dear life as the him promises u that if u fall off there is no way he will be able to stop his crew and u will just be stuck there to freeze over forever. after about 3-4 times that u fall off u start doubting all those heroic iditarod stories. they stop about half way for a little break where u take all those pictures that make u look as if u are in middle of sledding, because while u are actually sledding in the above mentioned conditions, pictures are the last thing on ur mind.
after we finished sledding, we were taken to the kindergarten, where were taught about each little puppy and his pedigree. mamesh rebbishe einiklach. each one has the most pure blood, and im sure they all have very bright futures ahead of them. at least in shlepping around a few yungerleit from eretz yisroel for 45 minutes. then we were finally driven back to the motel, again left wondering how the him drove so effortlessly between those trees, and how he knew exactly when and where to turn when the human eye has know way of seeing the road. maybe its just that he knows that when he gets to the part of the story about "ginger" coming in 6th place u take left, and when "hunter" broke her leg u take right.
fully exhausted, we ate davened, and hit the sack.
to be continued....
« Last Edit: March 29, 2020, 08:32:52 PM by m65 »

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #31 on: March 29, 2020, 08:27:15 PM »
alaska pics

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #32 on: March 29, 2020, 08:28:07 PM »
more sledding pics

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #33 on: April 18, 2020, 07:26:49 PM »
PART 6-

we woke up bright and early at 9 oclock (well before sunrise) on wednesday nov 20. we davened shacharis and ate, and then headed out to north shore cyclery. for approximately $30 per person we rented ski gear, which included brand new skiing sneakers. we then headed out to talkeetna lakes park where they have skiing trails. i was a first time skier so it took a few minutes till i was stable enough on those skis to get on the trail. skiing is quite fun as im sure many of u know. although we both fell a bunch of times, there were no major bruises for any of us. after some time we took a break and walked off the trail to byers lake. the lake was frozen solid, at least thats how it looked at first glance. we spent some time at this gorgeous lake, chilling and taking in the views. at some point, one of the skis that i had previously took off, got sick of waiting around, and decided to take a ski trip of his own down the lake all by himself. as it is not that easy to ski on one foot, we tried really hard to get him back. somewhere nearby there was a little hut with a bunch of life jackets hanging, and no one to protest us borrowing them. i put one of them on and slowly but surely headed out on the frozen solid ice to try to retrieve my stranded ewe. after about 20 feet or so i was abruptly made aware of exactly how unfrozen the lake actually was. i somehow made it back to shore alive, albeit soaked and pretty frozen. frozen for real, not just looking frozen. i shiver (pun intended) when i imagine what would have happened if i would have reacted about 2 seconds slower.

after a few minutes of recovering and contemplating what to do, a local guy passed by on a short ski break with his dog in between 2 business meetings, and we enlisted his help. we went back to his car and returned with a long rope. he then tied a noose at the end of the rope and we all took turns at the sport of ski-fishing trying to lasso our precious ski back to shore. needless to say, we had no luck, although he actually did come pretty close a couple times. he then tried convincing his dog to go and fetch it, but his dog had a drop more sense in his head than i had a few minutes earlier. with a lack of much choice we had to call an end to our skiing/lassoing trip. we were quite sure they would charge us a fat fee for returning 3 out of the 4 skis, and were pleasantly surprised when the lady told us "no problem, in a week or so the lake will be totally frozen over, and ill go get it myself". just try to compare that with switzerland. over there they probably would arrest u and hold u hostage until youre family coughed up the money to pay for the missing ski. after which u may or may not be released on bail till u stand trial for littering the lake, depending on if u are jewish or not.

we then rented from the same place snow bikes for about $15 a piece. they are pretty much regular bikes with huge monster tires. we had a nice time biking up and down the snow covered roads and trails, and when we got tired we returned the bikes. after the ease we had with the missing ski, we contemplated keeping one of the tires as a souvenir, but couldnt come up with a good enough story of how it got away from us, so we just returned them as we had gotten them :) .

after a visit to the local souvenir shop to compensate ourselves for the loss of our tire souvenir, we headed back to the inn. we suppered and headed in for an early night due to our morning flight to seattle. we actually would have much rathered to take the 3:30 pm flight to seattle. that would have given us just a 3+ hour connection before heading to new york, and allowed us another day in alaska. the problem with this was that according to harav tikochinsky (the baal haluach), thursday in alaska is halachically friday. 3:30 pm would have been cutting it dangerously close to sunset, and the smallest delay would have had us leaving alaska on shabbos according to this opinion. we therefore opted for the 9:40 am flight, which had us for the first time this trip flying during daylight hours and costing us a hotel night w/o being there the next day to enjoy the place.

after our previous mentioned driving experience on the way there, we left ourselves 4+ hours for the drive back to anchorage. we got up at around 3 am, packed up, defrosted the car and headed out. the drive was far from easy, but being more prepared for it, it wasnt as bad as the way there. there was heavy traffic on the way into anchorage, and we got to the airport w/o much time to spare. trying to save time we just left the car in the parking lot and dropped off the keys in the dropbox. this actually worked out nicely, being that we had taken the car out a little after 6 am 2 days earlier. it was now after 8:30 and had we gone to the desk, we would likely have been charged for an extra day. a few hours later i received an email with the closed rental contract stating time of return as 6 am.

when i had booked the tickets, there was award space for 2 on the alaskan airlines ANC-SEA flight, but only 1 award seat available on the alaskan airlines 11 pm overnight flight to nyc. so i had no choice but to book my uncle on the flights as ANC-SEA-EWR for a total of 15k aa miles, and me on just ANC-SEA for the same 15k aa miles. i then had to put myself on the delta 11 pm flight to JFK as a separate ticket, which i got for 20k delta skymiles. being that my uncle was not on the same reservation as me, my cancelled alaska airlines credit card did not entitle him to send his suitcase for free. while the desk agent was explaining to him that he would have to pay $30 to send his luggage, i asked her if it was possible for them to tag my suitcase straight to new york, even though it was 2 separate tickets with 2 non related airlines. it took her a couple of minutes to figure out how to do that, and in the meantime she forgot to ask for payment from my uncle for his suitcase. we were pretty sure that sometime before boarding we would hear his name being called to the desk to pay the $30, but that never happened, and his suitcase made it to EWR for free.

anyways, all said, we managed to daven netz, and board uneventfully alaskan airlines flight 98 for seattle.

to be continued....

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #34 on: April 18, 2020, 07:39:34 PM »
lassoing

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #35 on: April 18, 2020, 07:40:51 PM »
snowbiking

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #36 on: April 18, 2020, 07:57:29 PM »
random alaska pics

Offline bestwatchman

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #37 on: April 20, 2020, 06:15:49 AM »
This is great stuff! Thank you. Please keep it coming.

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #38 on: April 20, 2020, 06:33:50 AM »
This is great stuff! Thank you. Please keep it coming.
thanx for the compliment :)

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #39 on: April 20, 2020, 09:32:42 PM »
Great report!

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #40 on: April 21, 2020, 02:32:15 AM »

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #41 on: April 21, 2020, 03:00:22 PM »
PART 7-
we landed in seattle at about 2 pm on thursday nov 21. we planned on returning to the airport at around 10 pm, so that gave us some 8 hours to get a look around, and mark a ✔ on seattle. we took the train and headed towards pike place market. on the way i was looking out the window and saw a group of hat and jacket clad yeshiva boys walking together down the street. it was the first time in over 10 days that i had seen such a basic normal everyday life scene, and it was quite a homey feeling. in sydney there are such ppl, but its not a large community there, and we really only saw older guys over there. im not sure why im even writing about this, (maybe because i dont have much to write about seattle) its just that it struck me.

we got off at the wrong stop (something about 2 stops with the name university in them), and while waiting for the next train we decided to daven mincha. a fierce argument then broke out between me and my uncle as to in which direction is mizrach, with each one of us totally convinced that somewhere along the way the other one had totally lost his mind. after realizing that no one would be able to convince the other one, we davened mincha back to back, with each one of letting the other one know that there is no way his mincha would ever make it thru the makom hamikdash traveling in that direction :) . what a poetic jewish scene it was. ive never experienced this before, but im sure it has happened thousands of times in the past. if i had to guess, the last 2 surviving jews in afghanistan probably davened in opposite directions. after all with a lack of 2 shuls, u have to have at least a different direction to daven to.

we eventually got to the stop near the market, but before we headed down in, i had an old itch to scratch. when i was in 3rd or 4th grade, the social studies book we used had a picture of the space needle tower. for some odd reason, the picture fascinated me, and whenever the teacher bored me i would turn to that page and stare at that picture. i wouldnt have stuck in seatlle to the itinerary to scratch that itch, but once i was so close by, i had to go get a glance at the real thing. i asked around for directions, and after about 10-15 minutes of walking, i found a spot where i can get a look at it from the distance. i saw it, was yotzei my itch, snapped a few shots, and headed back towards the market.

if u dont have anything to do on a stopover in seattle, the pike place market is definitely the place to do it. tons of colors, sounds, interesting sights to see and u dont have to spend any money. we went up and down those alleyways stopped by the fish market, the fruit and vegetable stands, the tourist shops and all the narishkeit they have to offer. we then walked to the most disgusting tourist attraction on planet earth, the Market Theater Gum Wall. the minhag hamakom over there is to chew gum and then to place the chewed gum along the wall. the walls there are covered with tens of thousands of such pieces. no wonder washington was one of the first places to get hit by corona. go understand people. then again, i doubt all those people would understand half of my above mentioned thrills.

we then headed over to pier 57, where we did the ferris wheel and visited the pirate shop. not much for a guy like me to buy over there, but we had some good laughs at all the crazy things sold and bought over there. we then started heading back to the airport for our overnight flights to new york. being that i was flying delta and have an amex platinum card, i was able to enter the delta lounge. a real nice lounge. the shower room was really big and comfortable, soaps and towels were really good. after a whole day of running around, it was exactly what i needed in order to retire to my night flight/hotel. i would be landing at around 7 am on friday in new york, and needed the full day of friday to see as much family as possible.

to be continued....
« Last Edit: April 21, 2020, 03:04:48 PM by m65 »

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #42 on: April 21, 2020, 03:01:25 PM »
fish market

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #43 on: April 21, 2020, 03:03:04 PM »
pirate shop

Offline Jeremiah

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Re: circling the globe
« Reply #44 on: April 21, 2020, 11:52:21 PM »
Keep them coming! This TR is awesome!