Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dodging Raindrops, Totems in Stanley Park & Amazing Laughter in Vancouver...

Prior to arriving in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada, our last day on board ship was "at sea" -- no excursions, no stops at any ports -- a full day to enjoy activities on board. We were cruising the Inside Passage. Gross tonnage of the ship was 78,309. Overall length was 848 feet. Cruise speed was 23 knots.

After getting our bags packed and tagged, we had lunch and then went to the Stardust Theater. Greg Gleason was holding a Memory Seminar, very educational as well as entertaining. He was outstanding! No question that he held our attention. All I can say is -- we have the ability -- WOW! -- if we just utilize it.

Vancouver, British Columbia 

We arrived in Canada, Vancouver to be exact, on Monday, June 13, at 8 a.m. Our bags had been picked up at 6 a.m. from outside our room. We retrieved them from the color-coded area, corresponding to the color of the tags we had placed on our bags, consistent with the time we chose to disembark.

We found a row of chairs conveniently located where we watched, with our luggage, for our green tour bus to pull up to the curb. We had a full day to sightsee in Vancouver, before catching our flights to go home. While looking around, I found a couple items of interest.

Tall Totem

This tall totem was inside this building where we were waiting. The sign next to it indicated it depicted the crests of three maritime animals, the sea-bear, the sea otter, and the whale. It was carved by Charlie James (Yakuglas) around 1900. In the late 1920's, it was donated to the Art, Historical and Scientific Association, which later become the Museum of Vancouver. It stood in Stanley Park west of Lumberman's Arch, then at Brockton Point, and then in 1987, at the Vancouver Convention Center.

Just a reminder that you can click on any picture to enlarge it.

Tall totem inside building
Donald Duck

The Disney Wonder cruise ship we had seen in several ports where we were was also here in Vancouver. It was finally close enough to photograph Donald Duck hanging on the outside painting the finishing touches with one of his nephews looking on.

Front of Disney Wonder ship:
Donald Duck painting the finishing touches with his nephew looking on. 
Rain Finally Caught Up With Us

The bus arrived. We boarded. It had already started to rain as the bus pulled away to begin our tour. 

Rain drops taken through bus entry door 
It rained off and on all day, with an occasional letup while we got off the bus to sightsee and get a few photos. 

Stanley Park

The first statue allowed in Vancouver is located there. I had one quick second to capture a quick glimpse of it, a statue of poet Robert Burns, on our left as we turned right within Stanley park. Sorry about the reflections and raindrops through the windows of the bus, but if you look closely, you can see Robert Burns standing on top of the pillar.

First statue allowed in Vancouver was of Poet Robert Burns
Stanley Park has many huge trees with very large trunks, almost impossible to photograph and do justice to them through the windows of the bus with the reflections of the falling rain.

Another way to see Stanley Park, but not recommended on this damp, rainy day.

Open horse-drawn wagon tours in Stanley Park
Totems in the Park

Photographing a group of totems in the park turned into some unexpected fun. Our driver was British and many times during the tour, he had a way of sharing the humor for which they are well known. Our bus driver suggested we let him take a picture, and voila! me and Don became an addition to the totem. When it comes to totems, they told us the most important are at the bottom.

Having fun in Stanley Park -- what it's like to be a totem!
Scenic Overlook

Our next stop was Prospect Point, a park area with flowers and shops, plus a scenic overlook and view of Lyons Bridge. This photo of Lyons Bridge was taken through the top right-hand glass of the bus entry door on our way to Prospect Point. In the photos below, the raised flower beds in the top photo were on the left, while the shops in the bottom photo were on the right. The area between the two was concrete and led to an overlook.

Lyons Bridge

Raised flower beds were on the left.
Shops were on the right. 
Lunch Stop

Our stop to eat lunch was at a large inside market. There were booths galore and endless vendors offering many products for sale.

Raspberries, Strawberries, Cherries, Blueberries...
Beautiful baked breads 
It was so large that one section was designated for food vendors who had a variety of items available for lunch. After making our selections, we took the food to a central inside eating area.

On our Way to the Harbour Centre Lookout

Busy street on Monday afternoon
It was a good day to leave the driving to someone else this rainy day. Our tour included the Harbour Centre Lookout where we rode an elevator to the top of a building with a 360-degree view over-looking the harbour and parts of the city.

Harbour Centre Lookout/Building and surrounding area map
View of church at street level from overlook atop Harbour Center
Stadium as seen from Harbour Centre Overlook
Overlooking city with many tall buildings
This view from the overlook was on our left when we docked in Vancouver.

Interesting glass domed building at ground level from atop overlook
Giant Laughing Statues

We actually passed this sculpture when on the bus. The bus driver called our attention to how everyone was laughing. I was on the opposite side of the bus so could not get a photo then. This picture is of the photo hanging on the wall as we walked around the top of the Harbour Centre.

A-Maze-ing Laughter
"A-maze-ing Laughter" consists of 14 bronze statues -- all in different poses -- of a shirtless guy laughing hysterically! It is located in Morton Park right next to English Bay. The sculpture is by Chinese Artist Yue Minjun.

After we descended the Harbour Centre Lookout, we headed for the airport where we put our luggage on push carts and sat down to wait a couple hours until we could check in for our international flights. While waiting, I got up to stretch my legs and wandered into a shop where I found a Summer 2016 issue of Dell Totally Easy Sudoku. I love puzzles and just figured out on the way to Fairbanks how to play Sudoku. This puzzle book has 184 puzzles, and as I write this, have just completed 123 of them. It is a fun game!

After checking in, our gates were within walking distance of each other, so we could still be together until boarding time. It was hard to hold back the tears as we said our goodbyes. We had another wonderful journey, this time to Alaska! Our flights boarded and left within 30 minutes of each other. My sister and I texted each other and discovered we landed at our separate destinations, with tail winds and all, at almost the same time!

I then procdeeded to the baggage claim, collected my bags, and texted John that I had my bags and would be outside watching for him and Angel to pick me up with the RV. From where I stood, I got a glimpse of the RV and our trailer rounding a curve as they got nearer. I motioned John to a lane that was not busy where he would be able to stop long enough while I got in; and we were off... to continue our adventure of RV full-time living and traveling across the United States.

A little time to reminisce...

Thank you everyone for following this journey to Alaska with me and my sister. We have taken many trips together, some driving on our own and some on tours. While I was still in high school, we went with our mom and dad on two trips (one east and one west) to all but two provinces (Newfoundland and Manitoba) of Canada, returning from one through Glacier National Park via the beautiful Going to the Sun Highway. The first trip with mom and dad was north into Michigan where we crossed the Mackinac Bridge and hiked all the steps up (and down) to Castle Rock.

A two-week driving tour (I drove) took us to Florida; a one-week driving tour went through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the  badlands of North Dakota and South Dakota and into Montana. We have seen the Alamo, square danced at Disneyland, and have driven all four Covered Bridge routes multiple times in Parke County, Indiana. This was before buses began transporting visitors on the bridge routes.

One of our favorite places to visit is the 6th Architectural Wonder of the World, the famous West Baden Springs Hotel (near French Lick, Indiana). Its story is unique! It is a structure with a self-supporting roof that expands and contracts on a circular track. Google it for photos and more information. Also, we have enjoyed the beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom in the Great Smokey Mountains including the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, and had the thrill of taking the one-way road to Townsend.

One year we flew to California, landed in Los Angeles and rented a car, and drove north to see the Sequoyas, Redwood trees, coast of Oregon, Crater Lake and on to Salt Lake City, took a sail plane ride in Heber Valley, Utah, and so much more before returning the rental car and flying home from Los Angeles. In 1976, we went to the Rose Bowl Parade and saw Ohio State play in the Bowl game, then flew to Hawaii for two weeks where we toured four islands.

We have visited Israel, specifically the Holy Land. On this same trip, we visited Egypt where we saw the pyramids, rode a camel and saw the King Tut treasures that rotated to various world museums, and enjoyed a breakfast pizza when sightseeing in Rome, Italy. We visited eight countries in Europe on an Olson Tour, including seeing Oberammergau and the Passion Play presented in its 350th year! When riding an open cable car down the mountain in Switzerland, we had the pleasure of seeing cows on the mountainside and hearing the sounds from the cowbells they wore around their necks. It was so foggy in the Black Forest in Germany that we could not see the center line in the road. Other cities included Strasborg in France, and a castle in Austria, cruising on the Rhine and seeing castles along the way, being on a canal boat in Amsterdam, and so much more. Also we have visited Mexico -- Puerta Vallarta, and Lands End in Cabo San Lucas.

This is only a partial list; I could ramble on and on reminiscing about where we have been, and things we have seen, but with sharing these adventures, I hope you can visualize the fun we have experienced traveling together! We have been blessed! Thank you for sharing our journey to Alaska. My next post will be back on the road again in New Mexico resuming RV full-time living and traveling across America. Our next turn is onto Route 66.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Ketchikan, Alaska, Totems, Eagles...

Saturday, June 11...

It was hard to believe this was day 6 of our cruise and we were due to arrive at 1PM in Ketchikan, the southeastern most city in Alaska, and its 4th largest. Our excitement was building because at Ketchikan we were going to see eagles, totems, and a lighthouse.

Lighthouse, Totems and Eagles
It was mid-morning and we still had several hours before we reached their dock. Meanwhile, as we cruised the Inside Passage, the water sparkled beautifully from the reflections of the sun.

Inside Passage
Dali and Disney

This was the opportunity to see a one-time only screening of Destino, a fantastic brainchild of one of the most unlikely pairings in the history of Hollywood and the Art world. We had plenty of time before docking in Ketchikan, so we made it a point to show up at Dazzles where this screening was held. It was very interesting and I am very glad we took the opportunity to view this screening. Jack Warner held a dinner party in 1945, and this concept of Walter Disney and Salvador Dali corroborating began to evolve.

Disney said good new ideas have to be fought for; they do not just come. He felt Dali bubbled with ideas and was communicative. He also felt it was important to keep breaking new trails.

Destino was the name of a Mexican ballad Disney had envisioned for a musical short film project for which he had been compiling short features for theatrical release. Dali was attracted to Destino's title and the concept. In late 1946, for eight months he became an employee of Walt Disney Studios, arriving at 8:30 and working to 5PM. Twenty seconds of film, several paintings, various pen-and-ink drawings, and many storyboards came out of this period of time.

Dali talked about this collaborative in his own newsletter, saying it would "offer to the world the first vision of psychological relief". He was a pioneer in printmaking in the 20th century. All printing methods used by Collectors Editions in the publication of Destino artwork are the same ones Salvador Dali used throughout his career, and performed the same way, with his artistic vision and sensibilities firmly in mind.

The Art of Disney's Destino was an Academy Awards Nominee for Best Short Animated Film.


Alaska's first city was founded in 1885 as a salmon cannery site, with fishing being its initial livelihood. This earned it the title "Salmon Capital of the World".

1st City in Alaska
Now over 8,250 people within the city limits make it the 6th in the state for population. As we docked, we were pleased to see the easy walking distance from the dock to tours, shopping, etc.

Easy walking from the dock to tours, shopping, etc.
As we left for our tour, I noticed across the street from the dock the extremely long stairway nearly three stories tall at the far end of the street.

Long, tall stairway at far end of photo
Totems and Eagles 

On our boat tour, we had many opportunities to look for eagles as we viewed trees with their nests at a distance, but it was a challenge focusing in on the nests with my 5X zoom camera.

See eagles nest three branches down from top of tree in center.
Ketchikan, we were told, has the largest collection of standing totems. I counted six totems as we passed by this state park that is accessible only from the water.

Totems in state park accessible from water

Two eagles on this side of the highway can be seen on the rocks.

Two eagles
For safety reasons, the lighthouse portion of our tour was aborted. The waves were predicted to reach six feet high.

Rough waters with predictions for 6-foot waves
Our guide explained that what appeared as an island up ahead is very dangerous. The tall shaft in the center is there to warn ships of extremely dangerous rocks totally hidden from view when the tide comes in.

Warning of dangerous rocks ahead
These and other rocks in the area will be totally covered when the tide comes in.

Rain Capital of Alaska

No one waits for the weather to change. Average rainfall tops 200 inches, so all visitors are likely to experience the "liquid sunshine". Remember you can click on any photo to enlarge it.

Rain gauge near ship dock
Fortunately, we enjoyed sunny skies with no precipitation. After our tour we took the opportunity to visit several shops within walking distance, where I purchased several items I could easily fit into my bag and take with me traveling in the RV. They were a pair of Alaska State Flower "Forget-Me-Not" wire earrings, really nice, and Cariloha (extremely soft to the touch) towel wash cloths made of Bamboo (yes, that is correct -- soft and made of Bamboo), and some Del Sol color changing nail polish that changes color in the sun. (Del Sol also makes apparel that changes color in the sun.) Several links are included at the end of this post if you are curious.

Elephant in our cabin

Back at our cabin, the ship employee responsible for making up our room had left another fine creation in our room. About every other day he would create an animal using a bath towel, first a bunny, then a monkey. This time we found an elephant resting on the bed to welcome us back. All were adorable!

Elephant created from one bath towel

Tonight, we enjoyed another table with a view while eating our dinner.

My sister and I ready to order dinner

Enjoying this Alaskan vacation with my sister has been fantastic! Thanks to my sister who did a superb job of pulling it all together! Alaska is so fascinating, perhaps because much of the beauty of Alaska has been untouched!

We had a total of five people in our group, but to protect their privacy, I have purposely not used any photographs of the other three.

Activities offered on the ship included a huge variety of things too numerous to list here. This was a non-smoking cruise. However, in the casino on board people were allowed to smoke if they were playing the machines. An exercise room, spa, library reading room, plus entertainers, game shows, bingo, shopping, and dancing were only a small fraction of on-board activities. Golfers got to take part in a "hole-in-one" challenge down the main staircase one afternoon as passengers looked on from several levels.

Two individual entertainers that we particularly enjoyed on several evenings were Brian Rath who sang and accompanied himself on the guitar, and Tim Kruse, who played the Grand Piano. Brian's programs included evenings where he featured James Taylor hits, Radio hits of modern masters who made their mark on contemporary music, All-time hits, Acoustic Pop, etc. Tim featured programs of nice soft jazz, piano bar hits of the 50's and 60's, tribute to Billy Joel and Elton John, classic rock, and even a sing-along program. The musical entertainment provided by these two guys kept us coming back to hear more.

Celebrating a Beautiful Cruise with Festive Balloons

Day 7 was mostly getting our bags in order and making sure our passports were easily accessible. The last evening on ship the five in our group enjoyed dinner overlooking the water from a round table with a window view in one of the main dining rooms. Later my sister and I joined others along with the cruise director in a sing-a-long of familiar songs, after which festive, colorful balloons were released to float down from the ceiling near the central staircase.

Festive balloons released after group singing.
Thank you everyone for following my sister and I on this Alaska adventure... the next post will talk about Vancouver, where we disembark after the ship docks. Our flights for home leave later, so we still have another full day to sightsee in Vancouver before I resume posting about RV full-time living and traveling.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Juneau, Alaska, Whale-Watching, and Mendenhall Glacier

As a child growing up in the Midwest, I never gave much thought to glaciers nor whales, much less trying to connect the two. Being able to travel to different places, see the people, and see different parts of the country can open one's eyes. There is so much to see and even more to be learned!

Connecting a Whale to a Glacier 

The glaciers in Southeast Alaska alone discharge enough water to fill 40 million olympic-sized swimming pools. Glaciers grind mountains into fine particles, providing oceans with nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorous and unique organic carbon. These all contribute to the marine food webs. Whales at Auke Bay and the Juneau area swim at the top of this food web. Excursions to see whales were available at other ports as well, but the tour on Juneau worked best for us.

Whale Watching 

Fast forward to Auke Bay. Our excitement heightened as we neared the place where we saw whales swimming in the water. When whales were spotted in the water, boats slowed up, sometimes stopping, to allow passengers to watch the whales. The longer we sat watching, as the boat captain maneuvered the craft ever so slight, we noticed they swam closer to us.

Watching the whales - how incredible! They were beautiful. Even more beautiful was seeing them do a type of dive where they went under water, head first, and while still under water, their beautiful tail rose above the water. One whale did just that to the left of our boat; he was huge, sleek, and his tail was a sight to see! I was hoping for a photo opportunity, but even though I saw the whale as I turned, my camera was not in the right position to get the picture.

The Photo

Then I saw it! It was a little distance from us. A whale dived! Breaching, I think, is the name given to this action. I pushed the shutter button.  Success! We had come to see the whales, the whale's tail, and to my delight, I caught it on camera when he raised his tail! Wow! What a thankful, fantastic feeling to photograph this incredible sight!

Whale's Tail
Day 5 - Friday, June 10 

What a day to remember!  The Norwegian Sun arrived via the Gastineau Channel. We had a lot of sightseeing to do in Juneau, but our time would go fast. We docked at 7 a.m. and had to be back on board by 12:45 p.m. Upon arrival, we got off the ship, walked a short distance, passing this resting bear.

Resting bear
When we docked in Juneau, one of the first things that caught my eye was a red tram car from Mt. Roberts Tramway.  This beautiful flowering bush was left of the opening for the Tram car, across from the central parking area where we boarded the bus for our tour on Juneau.

Flowering bush with red tram car at back right
We boarded the boat to watch the whales at Auke Bay. On our way, this lighthouse appeared to our left.


Whale watching
After viewing the whales, we also saw glaciers...

Herbert Glacier was one of several glaciers we passed. we continued back to Auke Bay where we exited this boat.When we were stopped for viewing whales, we were allowed to step on to the front deck as well as the back deck for better views.  Our bus was waiting to take us to Mendenhall Glacier.

This is the boat from Auke Bay that took us whale watching.
Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier
It is one of 38 large glaciers that flow from the 1500 square miles of snow and ice known as the Juneau Ice Field.

The first Forest Service Visitor Center in the Nation was dedicated here in 1962. Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is in the Tongass National Forest.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Sign
From the visitor center at Mendenhall Glacier there are five trails from a 1/4 mile loop to a 3.5 mile loop ranging from easy, paved to challenging, gravel, rock and stairs.

An elevator takes visitors from sidewalk level up to the visitor center, where they can view a 15-minute movie, visit an Alaska Geographic bookstore and take photos from the glacier observation area.

View from Observation Area reached by the elevator.
Nugget Falls is to the right of the glacier.

Nugget Falls is to the right of Mendenhall Glacier.

No roads connect it to the rest of Alaska or North America because of the rugged terrain surrounding it, but it is on the Alaska mainland. It has a population of about 30,000 with an area of 3,255 square miles. By area, it is the second largest city in the United States. In 1906 it became the capital of Alaska when the U.S Congress dictated in 1900 that the government of the District of Alaska be moved there from Sitka.

Goods arrive and depart by plane or boat. Cars arriving in Juneau come via the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System, the floating roadway for Southeast Alaska.

Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier

When we leave Juneau, we cruise the Tracy Arm Fjord from 4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Tracy Arm is the heart of Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, designated by the U.S. Congress in 1980. We saw even more beautiful scenery as we cruised toward Sawyer Glacier.

While cruising to Sawyer Glacier, we encountered many scenic turns. It was hard to tell which direction the ship would turn as we wove through the scenic passageways to reach the glacier.

Walls of rock with vegetation growing on it

Ahead of us, we could have turned left or right.

Ahead we first go right,then left...

Still more turns ahead

A peek at the glacier...

Rocks of many colors...

Sawyer Glacier
The ship turned around at the glacier, after which we retraced our steps along the Wilderness area on our way to Ketchikan. There is still more beautiful scenery to come in the next post and more fun things onboard to share, so stay tuned.

Thank you everyone for visiting and following this adventure with my sister and me. Feel free to make comments. If you would like to be notified when a new post is published, put your email address in the box at the top right of this blog. Be sure to go to your email to confirm your subscription. We respect your privacy and do nothing with your information.