Flying to London

In the fall of 2018, we signed up for the Celtic Lands cruise, in early June 2019, , especially as it included a 2 day side trip through the D-Day beaches, the day after the 75th anniversary.  We both looked at the brochure and said, “I wanna DO that!”  So we reserved our spots and spent the next 6 months paying for it in installments, and dealing with Life.

We left for London on June 3.  We considered the 10-11 hour flights between San Francisco and Europe (Heathrow going, Amsterdam returning), and decided to fly business class, the first time either of us has done so.  It’s appallingly expensive but boy, does it help.  For one thing, we waited for our outbound plane in the Delta Lounge, in comfortable chairs, waited on by attendants with free food and drink!  For another, when they feed you in business class, you get a table cloth and cloth napkins, and real plates and silverware!  (And real food.)

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And Going Home

We had another day at sea after leaving Victoria, and my group spent it rehearsing, as we did a brief performance that night in one of the many ship’s lounges.  As I mentioned in my post on the Ketchikan stop, we didn’t get much support for our performance, so the audience was not very large, but they were very appreciative.  Fortunately the concert didn’t last very long; I was concerned about how I was going to pack.  Ship’s rules said that any luggage you wanted the crew to take off the boat, had to be out in the hall before dinner.  This meant I had to wear the same clothes to dinner that night, and to disembark the next morning; and underwear and some other items had to move into my rolling carry-on, already pretty full.  As usual, I worried about this more than was warranted, and the whole thing went quite smoothly.  I was expecting my husband to come pick me up, but he had had trouble with his car on his hiking trip (don’t ask), and didn’t want to risk it.  I took a taxi home, which worked just fine.  Here endeth the Wade in the Water cruise.

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Touring Victoria

Before I go on, I’d like to share some observations on large cruise ships, which I take from my travel diary:

I find cruising odd.  There are no public trash cans.  The staff takes care of everything.  When you finish eating, you walk away from the dirty dishes; the staff will pick them up.  I discovered that some people make cruising their hobby; it appears to be the only way this group takes vacations.    It’s all kinds of people – fat, thin, young, old, disabled, active, with and without kids.  They’re mostly very chatty and friendly.  Cruises have activities every waking hour.  In addition to the obvious – movies and music – there are towel animal folding competitions (I’m not making this up), game shows, lectures, and auctions.  Many bars have live entertainment.  The ship had 2 jewelry stores but no “convenience” store:  I couldn’t buy a pencil, or a candy bar, or a bottle of water.  Or, per my roommate, a hearing aid battery.  Except for in your room, or outside, there is no silence; and it’s kept air-conditioned a little too cool for my taste.  Now, on to Victoria.

Our last stop on the Wade in the Water cruise was Victoria, B.C.  I like Victoria; my husband and I have visited it several times, the last in 2016, making our own reservations.  There are some very nice bed and breakfasts there.  Our option on this trip, of course, was one of several bus tours – only one, because the ship was scheduled to leave at 1:30PM! Cruise tours do not leave much time for contemplation.  There was a bus tour option to the fabulous Butchart Gardens, which is a solid half hour north of Victoria; I doubt they had time to view the whole thing.  Last time my husband and I toured it, we took most of a day.

All my photos from this stop are in my gallery Victoria, which I encourage you to check out; I took many more photos than I’m sharing here.

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Endicott Arm

On our way to the last stop, in Victoria, B.C., we stopped to look at the Endicott Arm.  We were supposed to tour the better known Tracy Arm, a common stop for cruises; but according to the information desk, the ice there was too thick.  So we stopped at the Endicott Arm, a larger fjord a little south of Tracy Arm.  Nothing much happened except views of beautiful water, mountains, and glaciers.

Endicott Arm

Sumdum Glacier in Endicott Arm

Endicott Arm

A few more photos available in the gallery.

 

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Skagway

Before I talk about Skagway, I want to share an incident from the cruise ship which made my day, and almost made me miss the Klondike Highway tour (which left at 8:30 AM, gah).  My “official” dining room (I think it was Botticelli) was way at the back of the boat, but Da Vinci dining room was much closer to my cabin, and I could eat breakfast there if I didn’t mind sharing a table with other lost souls.  At the table that morning was Ed (not his name), 89 years old, a Korean War vet.  He was recently widowed and was on the cruise looking for a “nurse with a purse!”  He was so funny I couldn’t leave the table as early as I should have.  Still, I made the tour.

We got back to the Skagway area around 11:20, and the tour stopped to look at the reconstruction (preservation?) of Liarsville.  If you read the Wikipedia article I linked, you’ll find that Skagway was a major entry port for the Klondike Gold Rush.  The first steamer full of prospectors docked in Skagway at the end of July 1897.  Wikipedia doesn’t give the pre-gold rush population of the town (they may never have bothered to count), but Wikipedia says,

The population was estimated at 8,000 residents during the spring of 1898 with approximately 1,000 prospective miners passing through town each week.

In fact, according to Wikipedia, by June 1898 Skagway was the largest city in Alaska, with a population between 8,000 and 10,000.

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Ghosts from the Past

You never know what you’ll see in the newspaper.  Yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle had a front page article on the issues involved in identifying victims of the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise, CA in November 2018.  There have been a lot of articles about the aftermath of the Camp Fire; but this one had this photo on the front page:

A memorial (left) for Bill Godbout and the victims of the Camp Fire stands March 5 at Skyway Road and Skyway Crossroad Road in Paradise.

A memorial (left) for Bill Godbout and the victims of the Camp Fire stands March 5 at Skyway Road and Skyway Crossroad Road in Paradise.

The photo on the right is Kimberly Gin, the Sacramento County coroner, who was called in to help Butte County out.  It’s a very interesting article on its own; but the picture hit me like a sock in the gut.  Why?

I knew Bill Godbout.  I did business with Bill Godbout.

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Exploring the sewer

We’ve had to have the RotoRooter guys out twice so far this year, so we took their advice and arranged to have a team come out, excavate a possible blockage in the line and do a “spot repair.”  They arrived about 10:30 this morning.

Five and a half hours later, we all know a lot about our sanitary plumbing that we didn’t know before.  The house is 100 years old, and it turns out that the sewer main and its associated inputs are also about 100 years old, and the main line is clay pipe.  We’ve also discovered three sewer cleanout openings we didn’t know we had, one of which had a lower cleanout lid leading to a flapper valve (meant to prevent backflow from the street into our yard, which is slightly lower than the line in the street). 

The expert they sent out (a very experienced supervisor) believes all our backup problems relate to the flapper valve, which had rotted away from its attachment and was rolling around loose on the floor of the main pipe.  The expert was quite surprised to find this valve in our parking strip, next to the street; he said they’re usually placed right near the house.  But there it is, and they had to dig up about 4 inches of dirt and several Algerian iris plants to expose the cleanout lid. 

The good news is that, although there are some minor issues with the main pipe, the flow to the street from the house is unobstructed and the clay pipe is generally intact.  Now that they’ve removed the loose flapper, he thinks we should have no more backup issues.  The area where we thought we had a blockage turned out to be a junction with a former storm drain, which was patched into the main sewer many years ago, and was closed off and capped by our neighbors more recently, when they redid their own plumbing.  So we don’t need anything more now except putting everything back together, re-laying the concrete they dug up beside the house (where the old storm drain was), and leaving all the cleanouts accessible.

And this is a good thing, because if we ever do decide to do a trenchless sewer main replacement, it will require digging up the street out near the main (an Oakland city requirement) at our expense.  With traffic management, and repairs to the street.  And that will cost us somewhere in low five figures.  I asked why they have to dig up the road if the replacement is “trenchless,” and they pointed out that they have to be able to get at all the ends of the line.

If we ever sell the house, we’ll have to do it, because of the local requirement, imposed by the local water company shortly after the major remodel we did in 2012!  If we tried to do that remodel now, we’d also have to do the sewer line replacement.  Since we don’t plan to move out any time soon, we’ll worry about that later.

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The Klondike Highway

Our next stop after Juneau was Skagway, buried deeply in an inlet in Alaska’s Inside Passage.  To get an idea of how deeply it’s buried, take a look at this Google Maps link; the map should be big enough to show the inlet:   Google Map of Skagway

Skagway has its own history, of course; you can find a general overview on Wikipedia.  But it’s primarily remembered as the jumping-off place for the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush, in the Canadian Yukon.  Billy Moore, an early resident of Skagway, homesteaded at the mouth of the Skagway River in 1887 because he believed there were goldfields in the Klondike, and also that Skagway was the most direct route to the goldfields. 

So obviously, the major cruise ship activity on arriving in Skagway is the bus trip up the Klondike Highway to the top of the White Pass, which was the route taken by the prospectors who came by way of Skagway.  The trip was fascinating when you considered that the original prospectors would have taken it on foot or horseback.  It is not gentle country.   The rock formations below are typical.

Taken from the Klondike Highway

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Passing By Juneau

I had a plan for Juneau.  I was going ashore for one of the excursions, I forget which, and returning to the ship in time for a 2:30 massage appointment in the spa.  I was sidetracked by an incredibly stupid problem, which I’ll describe below; but because I never got ashore, all the Juneau photos I took were from the boat.  I ended up with a few, which you’ll find at my gallery JuneauJuneau, like a lot of towns on the Alaska coast, sits in a deep inlet among mountains.  A look at it on Google Maps will show you what I mean.

Juneau harbor

So, my stupid problem.  When I travel, I occasionally need to do laundry.  I wear high strength compression hose, and since they cost over $60 a pair, I have just enough for a week, and the cruise was 10 days.   So on the day we landed at Juneau, I went to the laundry in the morning to run a small load of compression hose.  This should have taken about an hour.

To do laundry on the ship you need a $3 bronze token, which you get from a vending machine, and you pay for it with your room card, which operates as a kind of credit card on board the ship.  The machine in the laundry on my floor wouldn’t accept my room card.  I called for help.  A nice young man came in response, took my card, and vanished for some time.  When he came back he said he had tried it on all 12 floors (?! yes, the ship has 12 floors with laundries), and it wouldn’t work in any of the machines.  The nice young man then produced another man, with a key, who extracted a bronze token from the coin box of another washer for me.  I got my laundry done; but by then it was too late for me to go ashore and still get back from the excursion in time for the massage at 2:30 PM.

I dimly recall that when I first got my room card, there was some kind of mixup and I had to have it rekeyed; I don’t know if this is why it wouldn’t work but I’m suspicious.

The other event while we were in Juneau was the affair of the purple bear.  In Ketchikan I poked around in a gift shop, where I found and bought a little pendant, a bear totem carved out of what I’m pretty sure is low-grade amethyst.   It was $16 so I snapped it up, and it’s one of my favorite pendants. I had it on when I went to the massage appointment I mentioned.  As I was dressing after the massage, a young woman came into the dressing room; we chatted, and I showed her the bear, which she liked.  When I got back to my room I realized I wasn’t wearing the bear.  Well, I convinced myself on zero evidence that the young woman had palmed it.  I checked with Lost and Found, who didn’t have it, and asked them to notify me if it turned up.  Then I went back to my room to fume.  Later that day they called me – a nice lady from a room down the hall had found it on the hall floor and turned it in.  (Fortunately I hadn’t told anyone of my suspicions.  I felt very silly.)  It looks like the string it’s on was tied in a single knot, and simply untied itself while I was walking.  When I got home, I asked Google how to tie a knot that wouldn’t do that, and the pendant is now secure.

My other grumps about the day in and around Juneau were that the service at early breakfast was awful (no details recorded), and the boat was freezing cold all day.  The massage, however, was very nice indeed.

Apart from the photos of the harbor around Juneau, I took a couple of photos on the ship that I’d like to share.  First was the chess board on deck 16.

Chessboard on deck 16

That’s not on a table. That’s on the deck, and the pieces are about 3 feet high.  Players walk around on the board to make their moves.  I wish there had been someone playing so I could show the scale.

And here’s the outdoor swimming pool on deck 14.  You notice nobody is swimming in it; it was a cold, overcast day, and there’s another pool on the same deck with a glass roof.

Outdoor swimming pool on deck 14

I never did get a full count of all the swimming pools on that ship.

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Lumberjacks

On any cruise you have the option of choosing multiple things to do in port, and in Ketchikan I chose two, the walking tour I described in my last post, and a lumberjack show in the late afternoon.  I’m still not sure why I decided it would be fun, although it had its moments.  But it was primarily a huge testosterone festival, with two competing teams of lumberjacks (U.S. and Canadian) showing off their skills with long-handled axes, two-handed saws, and gasoline powered chain saws.  The photos I took are the last 13 in the Ketchikan gallery.  I’ll share some of them here.  Here’s one of the U.S. contestants:

Lumberjack competitor (U.S.)

See what I mean by testosterone?

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