Friday, August 4, 2017

Day Eight: Alaska 2017 Finale

If you are new to Driving the Dream, welcome! I only update this blog when my family travels I travel. I welcome you to read through the adventures, and send me a message ( If this is your first visit, you may want to start at the beginning and work your way to the present.

I am sitting at the Sea-Tac airport, and Alaska 2017 is coming to a close. What a trip! We entered our 50th state, with an official close to Driving the Dream. Annelies went on her first cruise. The three of us spent a ton of time together, which I know neither of us will forget. It was good. Actually, it was great.

Yesterday we landed in Victoria, British Columbia. Annelies stayed behind while Paradis and I walked into town. I had a couple specific things I was looking for so we just browsed around the  shopping district (no such luck on finding my items). We were in Victoria a few years before on the last leg of a six state trip west, so we were familiar with the city.

I look tired. Trust me, I am well rested. 
Paradis and I returned to the ship, and the three of us went to the pool for the first time this trip. An Alaskan cruise is not the time to get pool time. But it was beautiful outside.

Pool in Victoria
Rae Ann's Version of Pool Time
Paradis' Version of Pool Time
Annelies' Version of Pool Time
Later that evening we went to our last show on the ship, a variety show of sorts.

Avoiding a Selfie Offspring Style
We went for our last ice cream cone of the week. How will we ever survive not having ice cream available all day long?

Today we woke early. We ate our last meal at the Windjammer, and departed around 8:45am. We had an interesting Lyft ride to Pikes Place Market (when I accidentally entered Pikes Market in the Lyft app as my destination) with a very interesting man who just moved here to look for a job working as an aerospace engineer working with drones. He was wicked smart.

We walked around Pikes Place Market for a bit, and made our way to Sea-Tac via the train. Here we sit waiting for our flight.

"What happens with Driving the Dream now that you have visited all fifty states?" I have been asked that several times this past week, and I have decided Driving the Dream will not end. I will continue to update this blog with my personal travels, regardless of who I am with or where I go. This is my dream after all, and therefore I get to make the rules. When I need a little boost in my life I often return to this blog to remember my happy times, so why stop?

Tip: If you want to be included in this (famous) blog, invite me to your home. 
Especially if you live somewhere cool! 

Thanks for following along my friends. Huge shout out to my two beautiful daughters that let me write about them, and share our lives with others. Gosh I love those two.

Alaska, 2017 Trip Stats:
  • Total three states (Minnesota, Washington, and Alaska)
  • Two countries (America and Canada)
  • Redbox: 0
  • Fights: 0
  • Injuries: 0
  • Views on Blog: Currently 43,048
  • Cruise (lodging, food, travel): $4,556.98
  • Lodging: $123.00
  • Souvenirs: $168.26
  • Tourist Traps: $1,424.60
  • Food Addition to Cruise: $234.53
  • Airfare: $1,033.20
Total Alaska 2017: $7,540.57 (give or take some change)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Day Seven: A Lazy Day at Sea

Day seven of Alaska 2017 was a lazy day at sea. One would argue that while on vacation, you should always be lazy. Good theory. But not for a person such as myself. Today though we were lazy, so this post will be short.

The day started with me writing my blog in the Cafe’ Promenade. I am becoming a regular. I guess better than the lounge. At 11:00 I went to a Q&A with the Captain, Head of Engineering, and Head of the Hotel (this is a big hotel after all). It was fascinating. Very interesting to learn about the ship and all the inner workings.

I showered (I told you this was a slow day), and went to have breakfast - or I guess at this time one could call it lunch. The girls were still sleeping (we lost an hour, so don’t judge too much). One by one the girls woke, and joined me so what would have been a twenty minute meal turned into a two hour meal.

Paradis and I sat in our favorite spot (sixth floor overlooking the promenade) and did our favorite things…I knit, Paradis read, and we altered access to the wifi. I am knitting a Welcome Blanket that will be part of an art exhibit in Chicago, and later given to an immigrant after the display. Great project. If you are a knitter, crocheter, or quilter please consider joining the project.

Welcome Blanket -
I need to take a few minutes to talk about the wifi, because it is a constant topic of conversation for cabin #3554. The ship does not have free wifi. Nothing is free on a cruise. So if you want any connection with the outside world, you need to purchase a wifi package. You can do so in advance of departing, or during the trip. Tip for future cruisers: Purchase in advance - it is not only cheaper but you get better access. The service is called Voom, and there slogan is “The fastest internet at seas”. Lord help us all if this is the fastest service at sea. It sucks. The entire week I have had that screeching noise in my brain, that my kids will never know, when I used to dial in for internet access. Remember it? I know many of you can hear it now. Ugh. Scary slow.

I went for a drink in the lounge while I waited for the girls to get dressed.

G&T at the Schooner Bar
We had dinner at the Sapphire. Lots of good food, but my body is starting to wonder why I am eating so much. She will be ready for a break come Saturday when no one cooks for her again.

Entering the Sapphire

Dinner at the Sapphire
We returned to our room to do some evening planning. The three of us like to plan, highlight schedules, and discuss departure times. We are weird like that. Note my Welcome Blanket behind the towel animal - I sewed together sixteen squares.

Annelies Planning

Annelies - More Planning
We went to the evening show, which was a flashback of 70 and 80's movie songs (e.g., Fame, Dirty Dancing, Flashdance). I loved it, and sang all of them out loud. The girls kept looking at me and mouthing "stop it...stop it". I know they really love it. 

At 11:00 we returned to our room, and I passed out. That little nap I took in my chair overlooking the promenade that afternoon, despite a staff person approaching me and asking "Can I help you with anything?", didn't extend my evening beyond that time. But the girls sleeping until noon did, and they left for the Adult Only Comedy Show. They are still sleeping as I write this post; I will update you tomorrow as to their evening. 

We just landed in Victoria British Columbia. We will stay docked in Victoria all day, and begin our return journey to Seattle tonight. We land in Seattle early tomorrow morning, and the three of us will fly out at 3:00pm for our return to Minneapolis. Alaska 2017 is coming to a close...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Day Six: A Glacier & Day at Sea

Day Six of Alaska 2017 started early when Paradis' alarm went off around 4:30am. The night before I could hear the girls talking about waking up to see the sun rise. I was sleeping, but smiled when I overheard them say "We should wake mom up too. She loves that shit." Well, neither of them woke when the alarm went off. But I did. The girls were right...I love that shit.

Alaska, somewhere in the Endicott Arm
The Captain drove us into the Endicott Arm, a narrow passage along southeast Alaska. We landed right next to Dawes Glacier. Our Cruise Director, Dan Dan, told us this was the closest they have been able to come all season due to lots of ice breaking off the glacier (called calving). I am not sure what to believe...there is a lot of marketing that goes on during a cruise. But the views were spectacular. Since we only had thirty minutes to observe the glacier before we turned around and returned to the wide open sea, the girls had to get up early to make the trek up to deck 14.

Ice Chunks as we Drove through the Arm
Dawes Glacier, Alaska

An early morning rise to see a Glacier

Glacier Run Off

Endicott Arm - Southeast Alaska
We went to the Windjammer cafe where we had breakfast, overlooking a beautiful glacier. I am sure everyone has heard that food is the highlight of any cruise. I would like to think simply hanging out with my girls is the highlight of my cruise, but food is a big part of our scheduling. The Windjammer is Explorer of the Seas buffet location. It is open nearly all day with a couple hours for turning around to the next meal. The buffet is extensive, and always has something to please. Even Annelies.

We returned to our room to shower, and I tidied (some people call it cleaning, but I like the word tidy so it doesn't seem like I am obsessed with cleaning; but I am). Paradis and I went to a napkin folding class. We had been at this same class thirteen years earlier - I wish I had photos. She was much more cooperative this time. I so love this girl.

Napkin Folding Class - Don't Ask
Napkin Folding Class - Again, Don't Ask
We had lunch (more eating), and simply hung out around the ship. At 6:30 we went to a magician show, and then off to dinner. The girls have enjoyed eating in the main dining room every evening. I was wrong to assume they wouldn't. I do not like to say Annelies is a picky eater, but she limits what she eats. I know that sounds the same, but it is a mother's hope that she will try new foods some day. I think that day has come, and I am thankful.

After dinner I went back to the room to sleep (I was up at 4:30am, remember? With no nap!), Annelies hunkered in next to me with her best friend Netflix, and Paradis dressed up to head out for the night. I have no idea what she did, but I hope she had fun.

Day six of this trip will be spent cruising at sea. The girls have highlighted a crap ton of things they want to do. We will see what time they wake...

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Day Five: Skagway & Puppies

Day five of Alaska 2017 began with more amazing views. I woke a bit early to update my blog while the girls continued to sleep.

We docked in Skagway Alaska around 6:30am. With a lot of effort, the three of us were up, showered, fed, and off the ship by 9:30am (note other days we were up by noon). We hopped in a van for a thirty minute ride to...I have no idea where. This whole cruise thing is weird for me because I have no idea where I am at any moment in time (and lack of wifi doesn't help since I can not enable my gps). I just let those that know better lead me. I do not like it.

Skagway, Alaska Flats
We arrived on property owned by our tour group. It was beautiful, and landed us next to the 'flats' that Jack London described in Call of the Wild (note to self: read that book again).

The salmon are all spawning (laying and fertilizing eggs) right now. It is crazy to visually see all of them on the surface of the water. Did you know that all salmon die once they lay or fertilize eggs? And when they are young they migrate into the ocean, and return to the same spot they were born (usually four years later)? Crazy.

Salmon Spawning
We boarded a contraption that would bring us straight up the mountain in record time. It was a fun ride, but the woman behind me didn't think so ("Seriously, he is going way too fast", "Why doesn't he slow down?").

We arrived to a clearing in the woods where dogs were happy to see us. We hopped aboard a 'golf cart' of sorts, and were pulled by a dog sled team of sixteen through the woods. It was fun. Our musher talked to us the entire time about her dogs, and racing. After our ride we spent some time with the dogs. Paradis was in heaven.

We drove a bit through the woods and stopped for some photos. Our tour guide likes selfies too! It is truly beautiful here. The photos do not do it justice. During the tour I met a woman, Kate, who came on a cruise last year and decided to retire and move here - she now works for a cruise line driving a bus into the Yukon. She said Skagway hasn't seen sun for four weeks. It is still beautiful.

Our Tour Guide loves Selfies
After a short talk about sled dog racing, the girls were 'released' to spend time with the puppies.

This was a great tour. It was through Alaska Adventures, and I would definitely recommend it. The tour guides were spectacular; funny, and informative. I guess you really need to have a passion for this kind of stuff if you decide to move up here and do this.

Skagway, Alaska
The bus dropped us off in downtown Skagway, where we had a salmon lunch. Annelies wasn't feeling well, so I walked her back to the ship. By the time I returned for Paradis, she was ready to return as well so she went back. I wondered through Skagway by myself for a couple hours.

The National Park Service owns over twenty buildings in town, and is restoring them to the gold rush days. This whole gold rush thing is amazing to me. In 1896 three people discovered some gold, word spread, and within two years over 100,000 people came through Skagway attempted to hike over 500 miles in pretty horrible conditions (yep, you read that right) with the goal of reaching Klondike and becoming rich themselves. Only 30,000 even made it to Klondike, and of those that made it only a handful ever became rich. The Klondike gold rush lasted two years before gold was found in an area with easier access (Nome Alaska), and people realized chances were slim one would get rich from the risk. It is crazy what a little rumor does, isn't it?

Downtown Skagway Alaska
I returned to find two sleeping girls. The puppies wore them out.

I went and had dinner. When I returned they were still sleeping so I passed out myself while reading. I slightly remember the two of them getting up and discussing waking at 4:30am to see the sun rise. Lets just say I was up at 4:30am this morning writing this blog post. Stay tuned for tomorrow's update...

At the Dock in Skagway, Alaska

If you are a regular reader of Driving the Dream you know I usually do stats every night. The stats include money we have spent, fights, injuries, as well as number of Redbox movies we rent (Netflix has replaced that fix). I have been asked by several people "Where are the stats for this trip?" Since we are cruising, we do not have 'daily' expenses, so it hasn't been as easy to track. But here goes a financial summary of the trip (I must admit part of the reason I haven't done this is because this is a big one for a frugal traveler, this trip ate into my traveling budget a bit):

Financial Summary of Alaska 2017 (as of day five)

Cruise: $4,273.48
Daily Cruise Gratuity: $13.50/person/day = $283.50
Airfare: $1,033.20
Hotel in Seattle: $123.00
Glacier Excursion: $927
Dogsled Excursion: $406.25
  Subtotal just Cruise: $6,923.43

Cruise Purchases:
  Drinks Sunday Night: $23.00
  Seattle: $16.40 + $5 + $5 + $5 = $31.40
Tourist Traps:
  Chihuly: $91.35
  Seattle: $27.15 + $28.98 + $13.30 + $7.82 = $77.25
  Juneau: $4.50 + $21.50 = $26.00
  Skagway: $37.24 + $10.04 = $47.28
  Cruise Ship: $0
  Victoria: --
  Seattle: $0
  Juneau: $83.94 + $12.56 = $96.50
  Skagway: $10.50 + $20.99 + $14.68 = $46.17
  Cruise Ship: $0
  Victoria: --
       Subtotal Extra Things: $438.95

Grand Total (as of this posting): $7,362.39

Fights: 0
Redbox Rented: 0

I am not going to include the $158 the girls racked up in cell phone chargers, during the middle of our first night, before we realized we should have our phones in airplane mode so it doesn't connect to the ship's cell service. Yikes. I started to log into my own cell phone account to see if I was charged the same, but stopped...I will deal with it when I return. I am on vacation after all.