Monday, July 31, 2017

Day Four: Juneau & a Glacier

Day four of Alaska 2017 was filled with some beautiful sites. I woke early to settle in at the cafe with my tea, donuts, and MacBook. I love donuts. And my MacBook. A view from the ship...

A view from our Ship
Around noon we docked in Juneau after traveling 750 nautical miles (I just googled nautical mile - don't do it if you are shitty at math - it hurt my brain). Juneau is an interesting city. It is the largest city in the United States (3,255 square miles) but with only 32,000 people. Every road in the city abruptly ends, as they do not go beyond the City of Juneau. The only way in or out is by air or boat (or I guess you could walk, but no one suggests that). I asked someone "when you say the road just ends, does it literally just end?" She said "yep".

We left the ship, and the girls walked into their 50th state. Wow. I wanted to scream. You can tell by their walk, the girls were repeating in their brains "I hope my mother doesn't scream...I hope my mother doesn't scream." I didn't. But I wanted to.

We traditionally take our photo next to a state sign, but there wasn't one so Paradis suggested this bus. It worked. I didn't cry like I thought I would. We just kept walking. I know I will cry at some point. I always cry.

We walked the mile into town (instead of spending $15 on a shuttle where we had to wait forty-five minutes in line to board the bus). The girls complained the whole way, which creates memories I know they will never forget. We shopped for a bit, picking up the mandatory pins my girls collect, ate a reindeer dog (yes, hot dog made of reindeer), and boarded a shuttle to the Heliport.

Getting Pins

Paradis' SnapChat

While searching for cruise excursions I struggled with what we should do while on land. Sled dogging for $569 EACH? See a glacier from a bus for only $89? Ask those around me, and you will learn I thought about this way.too.much. I originally selected a cool canoe trip in Juneau that would take us directly to the Mendendhall glacier, hike on it a bit, and we would canoe back. After a couple days, they replied saying we were not able to join the excursion. I had to share our weight when signing up, and I am hoping that wasn't the reason.

Anyway...I stressed about it some more, and quickly selected Guided Walk on Mendendhall via Helicopter. You all know I am a frugal traveler (by the way, my financial summary of this trip will follow soon for those that have been asking), and whenever we see people going up in helicopters I tell my kids "we will never do that". Well, today we did. I figured if we were ever going to do it, getting access to a freaking glacier was a good time.

And was a spectacular ride.

We took some photos, and our guide at the top gave us some cool info about glaciers. Very interesting. I collected water for my Collection Jars.

Annelies got a Glacial-Facial (simply wiping 'mud' that is created by the rocks getting smashed by the ice). She said it felt like rocks on her face. I said "it is". 

Annelies getting a Glacial-Facial
I love this kid!

Paradis and I did a Glacier-Push-Up, and drank water directly from the glacier run off. It was crazy clear. All the 'dirt' on top of the glacier is from the crushed up rocks, but the water is crystal clear. 

We flew with Temsco, and I have to say they were fantastic! All the guides, and staff, were so friendly. They gave us great info, and took lots of photos for us (no selfie sticks allowed). I am so glad I decided to do this excursion. 

The blue was beautiful

On top of Mendenhall Glacier - Alaska

The Blogger

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Day Three: At Sea

Day three of Alaska 2017 was spent at sea. We started the morning (at 12:15) with a Family Craft event in Adventure Ocean, the onsite daycare. Yep...we colored. My girls love crafts, and I cannot tell you how many hours we spent doing them while they were younger. I had a full room dedicated in my home simply for crafts.

The girls and I coloring flying fish. On the floor of the daycare!

Since we are on a cruise, I find it necessary to talk about food. I think some people cruise just for the food. Of course we are eating more than normal...but for some reason Annelies can't stop eating. I think she ate seven meals yesterday! She keeps saying "I am not sure if I am sick, or just hungry. Why am I eating so much?" Below is our selection of desserts - we are eating a lot of desserts.

It was a rough day at sea. A crew member told us this was the worse it has been the entire cruising season. Nice. As we walked around the ship we would see remnants of nauseated passengers...on the floor, the bathroom sinks, a little girl threw up in front of Paradis as she was walking up the stairs. Not good. But thankfully the girls and I were not affected. I kept saying "get your head around it girls, do not let it get to you". But by the end of the day my hips were killing me from bracing myself so I wouldn't fall over as we walked throughout the ship. I think we are in the clear. 

We went to an afternoon ice show. It was spectacular. I can barely stand up on this boat without tipping over, I have no idea how the hell those skaters do all those flips, etc.

After the show Annelies went rock climbing. As soon as she reached the top the crew member yelled "You need to come down because of the rain!" The weather has been pretty good - a bit windy and foggy, but overall it hasn't rained that much. She had fun.

We took a quick nap, got dressed, and went out for dinner at the Sapphire, the sit-down meal option. The girls had fun. We ate escargot, scallops, shrimp, steak, tenderloin, and roasted duck. I do not like seafood, and do not eat much red meat. The salad was great. Seriously the food was good, and the company was better. 

Anna's water, my G&T, and Paradis' Long Island
After eating way too much, we returned to our cabin and...yep, I took another nap while the girls watched videos. At 10:30 we went to the evening show, and stayed for the adult comedian at 11:30. It was a perfect day at sea. 

Today (Sunday) we will set foot in Alaska, our 50th state. I hope I don't cry. I will. I know I will. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day Two: Setting Sail, a Nap, & Growing Up

Day two of Alaska 2017 started with a lovely breakfast at Ace Hotel. We packed our bags, grabbed a Lyft, and arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:00am. Check-in was smooth, and uneventful. We are sailing on the Explorer of the Seas, with Royal Caribbean. Immediately upon entering I realized I had been on this exact same ship just thirteen years earlier (well, not confident it is the EXACT same ship, but the same model). feels a bit surreal. 

Ace Hotel, Seattle
Explorer of the Seas
We were greeted at the door with an option of juice or champagne. The gentleman handed my 18 year old champagne, and I quickly realized how much things have changed since we started this adventure six years earlier. My girls are growing up. 

Paradis and her Champagne, Photo by Paradis
We walked around the ship navigating from the front (forward) to the rear (aft), and committing to memory the port and starboard sides (all while thinking "can't they just use regular terms like front-back-right-left...we aren't joining the Navy?"). Our first stop was the library by the request of Annelies. Annelies has volunteered endless hours at our local library. I wouldn't say she reads any more than the average teenager, but libraries are her Happy Place. I am not sure if it is the organization of the books, the simplicity of the belongings, or the quiet, but she feels at home inside any library. Paradis sipped her champagne. 

Annelies in her Happy Place
At 1:00 our room was ready, and we dropped off our carry-on bags. We went to lunch at the Windjammer Cafe', which will be our main dining option all week (a buffet). At 3:00 we were told to report to deck for a muster drill (again, why not "Safety Drill"?). Annelies is a rule follower, and her anxiety demands listening to every.single.word. I try and respect that, but as we are at port and I am anxiously considering the fact I am going to quickly lose cell service, I can't help but take selfies, text, and Facebook Numb while listening to "get off your phone mom", "mom, seriously you need to put your phone away". I admit I rely on her to listen to all the details during these types of things. I dig that kid. 

In line during our safety...I mean, muster drill
Around 4:00 we set sail for our adventure to Alaska, our 50th state. 

Photo by Paradis

After setting sail it hit me I had been up since 5:00am, so I suggested a nap. I like naps. We always set an alarm, so we do not 'piss away the day'; after forty-five minutes we were up and walking around the ship once again. I admit the three of us felt a bit lost. We like schedules. We like having a plan. We wandered. We looked at the daily newsletter to see if anything appealed to us. But we just wandered, and explored. At 7:15 we went to the theater, which is another Happy Place for my girls. We settled into the seats, and the girls talked about the lack of catwalks, and Paradis made comments on the lighting. We enjoyed a forty-five minute show which was a teaser of sorts for the shows that will occur every evening. We will be back.

At 8:00 we left the show a bit early because the Optix had a Meet & Greet. The Optix is the teenagers Night Club. Since arriving on the ship, and receiving the Optix schedule of events, I could tell Annelies wanted to check it out. Teenage years are awkward. The three of us stood outside the Optix for nearly half an hour as I used every motivational speech I could think of to get her to enter...I offered to walk in with her, but the sign "for the safety of our teens, NO ADULTS allowed sign" discouraged me from entering (well, the rule follower wouldn't let me). Finally, I convinced Paradis to walk in with her, and when the staff asked for their SeaPasses to verify age Annelies told Paradis she could leave. We told her we would be in the library.  

Blogger taking photo with MacBook since she only
gets wifi on one device at a time, and can't use her phone. Sigh.
Paradis and I sat in the library; she read, and I knit. I am knitting a blanket for the Welcome Blanket project - check it out. After an hour, Annelies joined us and said she was going to return. I cannot tell you how happy that made my heart.  

Paradis, at the Library

Rae Ann, at the Library

At 10:30 Paradis and I returned to our cabin. While in bed I realized it was the first time I was worrying about Annelies. Of course my Motherly-Worrying-Skill is well honed from having an overly-mature 18 year old, but this was the first time I felt the same about Annelies. At 11:15pm Annelies returned. Paradis and I drilled her with a million questions, and she said "I am going back for the dance". As she walked out the door with fresh breath, for the first time ever I shared my favorite motherly advice "make good choices". My girls are growing up. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Day One: Seattle, Chihuly, a Nap & Churchmouse

Day One of Alaska 2017 is complete, and I am so happy to be back on the road with my two favorite travel companions. The day started with an easy ride to the airport. We recently moved back to the city, and our new home is two train stops from the airport. Did I plan this move so my effort to the airport would be easier? Yes! Absolutely!!

At Bloomington Central Station avoiding photos.
We enjoyed an uneventful flight directly to Seattle, with some stunning views along the way.

Photo by Annelies
We arrived in Seattle, and took the train downtown. I love, love, love public transportation. Cheap, and it immerses you in with the locals.

We checked into Ace Hotel. OMG...we love this place! Once before I had written that Paradis wanted to return to a place for her honeymoon (Congress Hall in Cape May). Ace Hotel has now been added to that list. In the heart of the action in Seattle, an older hotel with a cool vibe. It reminds me of my travels through Europe.

Our first stop was Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. It is located near the Space Needle, and is amazing. Paradis took some awesome photos.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Museum, Photo by Paradis

Chihuly Museum, Photo by Paradis

Chihuly Museum, Photo by Paradis

Chihuly Museum, Photo by Paradis

Space Needle
After Chihuly we walked back to Ace, and it hit me that I had stayed up a bit too long the night before. So we shut the blinds, and took a short nap. I love naps. We woke, and took the bus to the pier, where we boarded a boat to Bainbridge Island.

I knit, and my favorite knitting store in the world is Churchmouse Yarns & Teas. The girls have heard me talk about it for years, and I wanted to show them my obsession. I am confident they do not feel the same, but it was fun to be there with them. I connected with my friend Kelly, and bought some yarn that I didn't need. It was magical.

Kelly & I at Churchmouse

At my Happy Place with my Happy
We returned to Seattle, where we picked up some ice cream and a couple tacos. We settled back into Ace, and fell asleep. It was a GREAT first day.


I often share my blog URL with others as we travel, and today it occurred to me I really haven't shared much about the start of Driving the Dream. So here it is...since 18, when I left the small little town I grew up in on the north shore of Lake Superior, I wanted to travel. I would longingly look at RVs driving alongside me on the highway, and dream I was a part of their tribe. Driving the Dream started with a thought I would drive through all 50 states in an RV when I retired.

I married when I was 27, and traveled extensively through Europe with my husband Scott. We started having kids, and after a couple trips to Europe without them, we shifted our focus to the United States since we hadn't seen much of the country ourselves, and it seemed easier with kids (and I missed them horribly while we traveled).

From 1999, when I had my oldest, until 2008 we didn't focus our travels on hitting every state. We just traveled to where we wanted like regular Americans...Florida, California, etc. It wasn't until 2008 when I became obsessed once again with getting an RV and traveling to all the states in one shot. I asked myself "Why wait until I retire to do this?" Driving the Dream began.

I spent hours looking at home schooling the kids, making a living from being on the road, the most efficient routes, what kind of RV we will buy, etc. It consumed my world for many months. Scott talked to his employer about taking an absence from work for three months, and we started planning an RV drive through the lower 48 over the summer of 2010.

But life happened. Scott got a new job, and that approved absence from work went away. After some long ugly cries I pulled on my big girl pants, and shifted my focus to simply seeing all 50 states before my oldest left home (2017). Simply. But not really. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened to us. It has allowed us to focus on each and every state, and take our time enjoying everything around us.

I sat down, and put together a lose Master Plan. I chunked out trips, usually going on two every year (Spring Break and over the summer). Sometimes we would fly in to one city, drive across country, and fly back from another city. Sometimes we would rent an RV. We have done just about everything, because seeing 50 states in six years takes planning.

Scott and I divorced in 2015, and the girls and I continued. This trip will take us into Alaska, our 50th state. The official end to Driving the Dream. I must admit it is a bit emotional for me, because when I first started saying "we are seeing all 50 states before my oldest leaves for college" it seemed like an eternity away. She is leaving for college in 27 days. Yikes.

But I will tell you, my dream was realized. This dream was about more than just visiting all the states. It was about exposing my daughters to my love for travel. It was teaching them how to have a dream, put together a plan, and make it happen. It showed them that there are different people out there, not just midwesterners. It showed them the beautiful backdrop of America, that includes more than what they see in Minnesota.

Somehow, along the way, many of you have joined in on my dream. As of today, this blog has received over 42,000 views. I have received emails from mothers saying I helped them see the reality that this can happen. I have had friends tell me they travel because of the motivation they received from me. Those are outcomes I didn't realize were part of my dream, but I love.

The purpose of this blog will always be to document this dream for me, and my daughters. We read through it often, and I have a feeling they will continue to read through it as they grow. Happy travels everyone!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Alaska, 2017: End of the Dream, Beginning of The Next Adventure

Greetings Driving the Dream fans! We are back on the road, and this trip is huge...we will enter into our 50th state in just forty-eight hours. Driving the Dream will officially be complete, but our adventures are far from over (I keep saying that in my mind so I do not cry too much on this trip).

Today we fly into Seattle. Tonight I will visit my favorite knitting store on Bainbridge Island, and knit with my friends at Churchmouse. Tomorrow we will set sail on a seven day cruise through Alaska.

So stay tuned for what I assume will be another fun adventure, our our official last trip of Driving the Dream...

The girls avoiding our first selfie.