Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day Three: Ketchikan

Mary and Ed Reynolds, 28 June 2010

When I blogged about Monday’s activities, I forgot to mention that Monday was “formal night.” Except for the Horizon Buffet, all the restaurants required formal wear. Ed was a little skeptical, but while we were packing I suggested bringing along some nice clothes just in case. I’m glad we did.

Ed and I have been married for almost 6 weeks, but we don’t have a formal wedding photo. When we discovered that the ship’s photographers were taking formal pictures that night, I thought it was a good idea to get a formal shot from our honeymoon, something nice to hang on the wall at home. We chose the above photo from the selection they offered.

Our first view of Ketchikan, Alaska

Around 6:00 yesterday morning, Tuesday, the Sapphire Princess pulled alongside the town of Ketchikan. It was our first stop of the cruise.  We would be docked there until 4:00 p.m., so most of the day was all ours to explore.

Ketchikan is called “The First City of Alaska” since it’s the first port you come to when traveling north along the Alaskan coast. Despite it’s small size (about 8,000 people), it is the 4th largest city in the state. The main industry has always been salmon fishing, but tourism is quickly taking its place. Until yesterday, I had no idea Ketchikan was actually located on an island.

Mary watches as we approach our dock.

We also learned that there is no flat land on the island. A home is either built into the side of the mountain, or the granite is blasted away to make a space for it, or it is built over the ocean on a pier-like structure.

This steep road, which was blasted through the mountain, is a rarity. Most roads are built on wooden trestles around the town, and many of them are more than a hundred years old.

We waved good-bye to our ship around 8:00 a.m. and went ashore. Ed immediately signed us up for a Duck tour on the amphibious Duck bus/boat below.

Ed poses by the Duck bus/boat.

We saw a lot of interesting sites and picked up many interesting facts on the tour of the town. The part where we drove into the ocean and sailed away was fun, but we didn’t get to see as much wildlife along the shore as we’d hoped for.

Mary finds a Ketchikan sign.

While we waited for our tour, we wandered around downtown Ketchikan. We discovered a locally-owned gift shop called Sockeye Sam’s, where we found the perfect souvenirs for Sarah, Jacob, and Dylan. I’m very excited to give them to my kids!

Ed and I also found tee-shirts and a few other fun items for ourselves. At one point I paused to admire a necklace made of dymond wood carved into the shape of a whale’s tail. About an hour later, after we’d left the shop, my sweet husband surprised me by placing the necklace around my neck. He’d bought it for me on the sly! You can almost see it in the picture below…

Old college buddies Terri and Mary, together again!

One of my old college friends from Arizona State University, class of 1990, was from Alaska. After graduation she moved to Ketchikan and became a special education teacher there. Terri and I have exchanged Christmas cards and newsletters every year since our graduation 20 years ago, but we’ve never seen each other since then.

By the time I realized Ketchikan was one of our stops on the cruise, it was too late to send a letter to tell Terri of our trip, and I didn’t have her phone number. So when we arrived, I asked a shop keeper for a phone directory and started looking. When I told Ed that Terri’s husband’s name was Hall Anderson, the shop girl exclaimed, “Hall Anderson? He’s a photographer for the Ketchikan Daily News!” Yes! I knew he was a photographer for the local newspaper!

The creek through town where thousands of salmon return each year to spawn

Hall answered the phone on the first ring, and when I explained who I was he handed the phone right to Terri! They had just returned from an extended fishing trip the previous day, and they were preparing to leave on vacation to Washington and Oregon the following day. To me, it’s a miracle that the day we arrived was the one and only day we could have reached them and had a visit!

Homes and businesses built along the creek

Terri met us after the Duck tour and took us to a local seafood restaurant. Then she took us to see some of the totem poles Ketchikan is famous for. The world’s oldest collection of totem poles is located there. Before she drove us back to the ship, she took us to her house, where we were able to spend some time visiting with her and Hall and their big yellow lab, Tucker.

By the end of the day, Ed and I were worn out. But we both agreed the day turned out to be unexpectedly perfect!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day Two: At Sea

Mary stands at the ship's prow.

Monday was day two of our cruise, and we spent the entire day at sea. The distance from Seattle to our first stop, the Alaskan town of Ketchikan, is about 650 miles. I believe at top speed the ship travels about 17 miles per hour, so it takes a day and a half to cover that distance.
Essentially we spent the day walking the deck and eating. And eating. And eating.

The food is plenty and fabulous. Horizon Buffet is open pretty much all day and you can wander in and eat pretty much all you want, pretty much any time you want, pretty much as often as you want. They offer a huge variety of delicious foods. So far we’ve eaten both breakfast and lunch there twice. It is good!

Our table at the start of the meal: delicious breads, real butter, and fresh flowers every night!

For dinner we can eat at the same buffet if we like, or we have the choice of 4 other restaurants: the Santa Fe, Pacific Moon, the Savoy, and Vivaldi. These are nice sit-down restaurants where you are seated by a maître’d and waited upon solicitously by the head waiter. Each place has its own décor and ambience.
You would think these restaurants served different types of food, such as Mexican, Chinese, American, and Italian. However, we discovered on the very first night that all 4 restaurants share the exact same menu. Whichever you choose, the menu selections are identical.

And what a menu it is! It’s like the foods you see prepared by high-class chefs on cooking shows, where presentation is as important as flavor, and quality is more important than quantity. It’s all incredible.

Our desserts: Ed's heart-shaped chocolate mousse brownie and my cheesecake.
The head waiter begins by placing our cloth napkins in our laps for us. He refills our wine glasses with a flourish, handling the bottled water as if he were serving us from a bottle of 200-year-old fine wine. After each course he whisks away our fine silver cutlery, even if we haven’t used it all, and then quickly replaces it with a fresh set before the next course arrives.

The dishes on the menu are sorted into “appetizers,” “soups and salads,” and “main dishes,” so we thought we were supposed to choose one item from each section. We soon found that we could order absolutely anything at all from the menu, as many dishes from as many sections as we liked. Almost like a buffet with a menu!

Ed and the wake behind the ship

Other than eating more than we should have, we truly enjoyed having the freedom to walk the deck several times throughout the day.  Three laps around the perimeter of the ship is equal to one mile.  We did only one lap, but we returned to various places on the deck several times and probably put in close to a mile total.  We've also put in a lot of time going up and down stairs, enough to leave me with slightly shaky knees, so we are getting some good exercise!

On Sunday, our first day, the waters were very smooth and there was hardly any motion to be felt.  Monday was quite different, though.  The waters weren't terribly rough, but they were choppy enough to make the floor rock beneath your feet.  Ed experienced some seasickness but quickly recovered.  It didn't bother my stomach, but it caused me some lightheadedness.  I found it a little bit disorienting at times.

Where do you supposed the rolling motion felt the strongest?  In the shower and on the toilet!  It's amazing how strong the effects are when you're in a tiny little bathroom!

Mary huddles in her jacket while watching a cloudy sunset from a deck chair.

At the end of the day, we enjoyed relaxing on the deck and watching the sun go down behind a bank of clouds.  It was beautiful and restful.  In fact, we stayed for about an hour and a half and even dozed off for awhile.  I think these are the moments that will linger among my favorite memories of our cruise. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day One: Sapphire Princess

Ed and Mary at the “Sail Away” party on the top deck of the Sapphire Princess
as the ship embarks from Elliot Bay in Seattle.
This shot was taken by the ship's photographer and cost us $20!
I can’t believe we’re really here! Ed and I are enjoying the honeymoon we’ve always dreamed of: one whole week alone together on a cruise ship heading up the coast of Alaska.

Mountains seen from the plane at 36,000 feet
Our flight to Seattle was crowded and a little frightening to me. I hadn’t been on a plane since my friend Peggi and I flew to Hawaii 30 years ago, in January 1980. Yet I loved spending those 3 hours beside my new husband. Ed was so patient and encouraging, I found myself almost enjoying the flight!

We used this napkin to keep me distracted by coloring in all the states I’ll have visited by the end of this honeymoon trip.
We arrived in Seattle at 1:00 and took a shuttle to our ship, the Sapphire Princess. Our stateroom is small but very elegant. They use a lot of mirrors to make it appear larger. The bathroom is teensy-weensy and there’s no seat on the toilet, which is a little weird. How odd to sit directly on the porcelain rim!

I love this plaque by our cabin door, identifying us as Mr. Edward Reynolds and Mrs. Mary Reynolds.
This is the only place where no one has ever known me by any other name!
The ship set sail right on schedule at 4:00. Ed and I ordered virgin strawberry daiquiris (no alcohol) and joined the “Sail Away Party” to watch as the ship pulled away from the pier and headed out into the Puget Sound.

Mary, age 55, at the top of the ship
The ship is gorgeous, immaculate, and huge. It’s easy to get lost in it, as we’ve already learned several times. There is room for about 2,700 passengers on the Sapphire Princess. That’s like a small town! We’ve met a lot of nice people from all over the world, including two couples from Arizona. In fact, one couple from Mesa is friends with a family I’ve known for years in Pinetop-Lakeside. Small world, indeed!

One of several pools on the ship: notice the regular pool on the right, which is under the water of the larger, shallower pool.
The food is amazing! The stereotypes about constant eating on cruises appear to be true. There are restaurants everywhere you turn, with a tempting variety of delicious dishes. Willpower is necessary, since the food is included and you can eat all you want for no extra cost. (Yet they charge you $3.50 for every bottle of water you drink! We’re learning some of these lessons the hard way…)

Ed sits at our luncheon table, with a beautiful view of the Seattle seaport as we wait to sail.
Before dinner we got settled in and then went exploring. Navigating the system of elevators and stairs is surprisingly tricky, and we had to ask for directions multiple times. After dinner we spent some time at the railing, looking out at the passing scenery. On the port side of the ship we saw the Canadian coast creeping by. On the starboard side were many large, inhabited islands.

Ed looks out on the water.
In the evening we enjoyed sitting on the deck and watching the sun disappear behind the sea. I didn’t have my camera with me, so I missed that photo op. Ed and I were both exhausted by the time darkness fell and we called it a night. It was cool to come back to our stateroom to find our sheets turned down and chocolates waiting on the bed. This is the life!

Thank you, my sweet husband, for giving me the gift of such a wonderful honeymoon!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Birthday Boys

Today is Jacob's 19th birthday.  In 5 days, it will be Dylan's 13th birthday.  My sons are growing up too fast!

In all the madness of getting married and traveling between states and planning a honeymoon, I somehow missed the fact that I will be gone for Dylan's birthday.  And for the 4th of July.  It makes me a little bit sad to miss these events with my family.  I've never missed them before.

They assure me that they will be fine without me.  I know it's true, and that makes me a little bit sad, too.  It also makes me proud of them.

So we celebrated both boys' birthdays today, exchanging gifts, sharing an ice cream cake, and having our traditional birthday dinner at El Rancho.  It was fun to have Ed join us this year.  (Sarah was with us, too, but she was behind the camera.)

Jacob, we told you not to say "Schuster!"

Now the boys are off at the lake with their cousins, having what they consider to be their real birthday celebration, while Ed and I are madly trying to finish packing for our honeymoon cruise to Alaska.  Suitcases, tote bags, toiletries, stacks of clothes, and other personal items are strewn across the bed. Slowly, slowly, it's all coming together.

We'll be up at 4:00 in the morning, ready to drive away at 5:00 so we can arrive at my sister Karla's house in Mesa by 8:00.  She'll drive us to Sky Harbor Airport so we can make our 10:00 flight from Phoenix to Seattle.  I'm a bit nervous, but I'm so excited!

If everything goes as planned, I intend to blog each day of our cruise.  If you're interested in the sights of the inside passage on the way to Alaska, stay tuned!  

Friday, June 25, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Truck and trailer at Carl's Jr. in Pueblo, Colorado.

We had a very long but safe and uneventful trip from Wyoming to Arizona yesterday.  Even though we were hauling a big trailer packed to the ceiling, and the truck was loaded like we'd hired Jed Clampett as our mover, we made the trip in 14 hours.  That's 2 hours less than when we'd hauled the fifth-wheel trailer down the previous week.  It probably helped that Ed and I were alone and thus able to make fewer stops.

The Denver skyline.

We agreed that we could happily live the rest of our lives without ever making that drive again!  Of course, our family vacation to Estes Park, CO, in July will also require a 12-hour drive, so we'll have no choice, although we're pretty sure we'll break that trip into two 6-hour drives and spend one night in a hotel along the way. 

Castle Rock in southern Colorado.

We got home at 10:45 p.m. and pretty much fell into bed after midnight, yet we were up at 6:00 this morning because we had so many tasks to tackle today. Since we'll only be home today and tomorrow before leaving again, this time for 11 days to go on our honeymoon, nothing could wait. 

A beautiful sunset over New Mexico.

Among many other errands, Ed got his new Arizona driver's license and registered his vehicles in his new home state.  We spent a lot of time with our insurance agent updating my policies into our policies.

Jacob, Ed, Dylan (on truck), and Sarah unload the Dodge Ram 3500.

We also rented a storage unit for most of Ed's stuff, since we won't be home long enough to deal with it until the end of July.  We figure we won't need the unit more than a few months.  There will be a huge yard sale once we start blending our things into one home!

The best part of the day was returning to Helmut the Jeweler to pick up our wedding bands.  We designed and ordered them more than 5 weeks ago, when we still planned to get married on June 24th (yesterday would have been our wedding day, if we'd been patient enough!).
The actual photo of the ring on my hand doesn't really show the amazing detail the jeweler put into the ring, so here are some of his computer renderings.  The center ring is my engagement ring, his one-of-a-kind design called "Paradise."  Notice the heart-shaped prongs that hold the round diamond in place.  So cool!
Although the jeweler designed two bands, one for each side of the engagement ring (because he prefers a more symmetrical appearance), I chose to go with only one wedding band.  His original design for the wedding ring was studded with a series of diamonds all along the band.  I love diamonds, but I prefer a simpler look with fewer stones.  So the jeweler, Stephen, worked with me to design an original band to suit my taste.  I love the two heart-shaped diamonds, which he suggested in keeping with the heart theme.  It turned out better than either of us expected.  I love my rings!
As much as I love mine, I think Ed's ring is even cooler.  While we were choosing our rings, we noticed the jeweler's wedding ring, which looked almost like this one except it had only one, larger diamond which was placed in the center.  The more we admired it, the more we knew it was the right ring for Ed.
The jeweler explained that his inspiration for this ring was the crown of thorns worn by Christ at the time of His crucifixion.  Ed chose to have the three smaller diamonds, which to us represents the Godhead, who overcame death through the Savior's sacrifice. 
It was a wonderful, productive day, and tomorrow looks to be just as busy.  I only hope we can have everything ready in time for our departure on Sunday morning!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Farewell, Wyoming

That's it.  We're all packed up and ready to head out bright and early tomorrow.

We were up to our elbows in boxes, but members of Ed's ward at church showed up in the evening and made short work of  carrying the boxes and furniture out to the trailer, where Ed supervised the loading.  (My husband is almost as OCD as I am!)  It was all done within 3 hours. 

Here they are loading the quad.  Dylan is quite happy that the four-wheeler is heading toward home tomorrow!

My first visit to Wyoming has been quite an adventure!  While I'm most excited to be back in our permanent home in Arizona, there are many things I'll miss about Wyoming and northern Colorado.  Here are a few photos of our memories of the area:

This is a view from Caryl's front yard.  This is a land of wide skies, vast grasslands, rocky ridges, bison and cattle, and old homesteads surrounded by prairie.

Right now these little yellow flowers are growing profusely along the roads and throughout the grasslands.  They make me a little bit homesick for our similar yellow flowers blooming throughout the White Mountains of home.

This is the view along the highway between Caryl's house in northern Colorado and Ed's place in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  This is very typical of the scenery for hundreds of miles around.  It's usually very windy.

I grew up with that old song about "where the deer and the antelope play," but I never saw an antelope until I came here.  They are everywhere!  Antelope are much tinier than I imagined, and they blend well into the landscape.  Ed and Dylan made a game out of who could be first to see one of these tiny animals in the surrounding prairie, and Dylan became very good at spying them from great distances.

Ed's apartment was just a few blocks from downtown, and his neighborhood was filled with these stately old homes that I love.  Red brick was obviously very popular once upon a time, but there are a lot of other great styles, like the curlicues and gingerbread adornments on the old Victorian homes.  This particular house was right next door to Ed's building.
Farewell, Wyoming, the home of my sweetheart!  You'll always have a special place in my heart!