Wednesday, April 29

Tour Day!

It was my first tour day! Sunny and beautiful outside, I couldn't have asked for a better day in Juneau. I had a bus full of people from LA and Hawaii, full of questions and happy to laugh at my jokes. It makes getting back into the swing of things a easier with a group like that. I know there is a proverb somewhere about laughter and it uniting people - that what's it felt like. We went to the glacier and then to Glacier Gardens, which is where I remembered to pull out my camera. The girl in the photo with me is Joey. We were on the same tours today, so we got to know each other pretty well after chatting in the down time.
The Gardens are beautiful. Even with the plantings not being complete, and the upside down trees looking pretty bare, the landscape is breath taking. People that go on this tour take a golf cart ride 600 feet above sea level, through the Tongass National Forest, to come out at a look out. The view back towards Juneau is awesome. The ride gives people a close view of the natural flora, and there is an eagle's nest that is about as big as a VW Bug.
Inside the green house, they are still keeping the plants safe from the frosty nights. In a few weeks, this place will be cleared out and turned into sitting area and cafe. They will keep the hanging pots from the ceiling and soon the petunias will take over. They get huge!

Here is Joey's bus dropping off. If you want, you can imagine it's my bus, as mine looked exactly the same today. Just one tour today, and the next ship comes on Sunday.

I move into my apartment on Friday, which I am beyond excited about. I'll have an address, and I won't have to move again until September! I met some of my old friends from the 2004 season, exchanged phone numbers, and started to feel better about being here today. Such a difference having a job makes.

And in case you are wondering how K and B are. They are great. Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, April 28

Kiddies, not kitties

Kiddies! Kindergartners and second graders to be exact. Today and yesterday I've been driving around local school children on field trips. They were adorable! The kindergartners went to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) facility to learn about sea creatures. They came out talking about star fish, sea cucumbers, and lots of spiny creatures. They were so little in the bus seats, wiggling all about and happy to be in something new. "This is even bigger than my dad's truck!" I had to have a conversation with them about needing to keep their bottom pockets on the seats and using neighbor voices. They called me Miss A and a few gave me hugs when it was done. It totally made my day!

Today I took some second graders from the school on Douglas Island out the northern point of the island so they could hike in the trails and see all sorts of things at low tide. They brought back buckets of sea shells, and enough sand to instigate a through sweeping of the bus when I got back. I had the boys in the front seats help me keep an eye out for deer, and hearing them talk about all the cool stuff they were going to do/did kept making me laugh under my breath during the drive. Kids are so great!

Tomorrow I have my first tour. A group from the Norwegian Star who are going to the glacier and to the Glacier Gardens. And just like that the season starts.

Sunday, April 26

It's not curling up with the NY Times, but I'm happy

Waffles. Hmm, waffles. Happy Sunday everybody! It is beautiful in Juneau - not a cloud in the sky. A crisp 43 degrees, and empty streets. I am done with work, and enjoying the blind date I set up between a waffle, and some peanut butter. They are having a lovely time in my tummy!

I had some early morning runs today: taking a soccer team to the airport at 4:30; taking the shore excursion sales managers to Temsco to get on helicopters, to enjoy this beautiful day from the air, and to also go snow shoeing. They were a fun group, and I'll get to see them all through out the summer as they come in on their prospective boats and hand me fistfuls of tickets, passengers, and dock times. Yay! The season is starting!

My uniform has been disbursed. It amazes me how a seemingly normal shirt transforms me into a bus driver - I used to have a body shape? Where did it go? Where is my waist? The plus side is it's grey, so the inevitable film of muck won't show after the first 15 minutes. And the jackets are red, which I give a big thumbs up. After I bulk up on under layers and warm socks (why are my feet always cold?!), I will have my defense against the rain, sleet, fog, and cold. I have yet to find the repellent for whiny passengers, but I'll keep looking.

Friday, April 24

Last night in my frozen Hades

I have a place to live! There is a roof, and running water, and heat! Funny how I used to think those were items you didn't have to ask about when renting a place. I won't make that mistake again.

But my new place. I move in next Friday. I was hoping to have a story about taking over the room of a sea captain, but I'll be in a different room than the one I originally thought. No forgotten pirate booty for me to haphazardly discover. Shucks. Instead, the landlord has to move some boxes out, put the furniture in, and I'm set.

In the mean time, one of my dispatchers, Bob, offered to let me and the kitties stay in his house. The boys will have a new kitty friend to make, but c'mon, have you been paying attention to what I've put them through already? One cat is no problem. I need to have the somewhat uncomfortable conversation with Ron about me leaving, but I don't think it will cause any ripples. Part of me doesn't think he'd notice if I left without telling him. For all he knows, maybe I got lost in the piles of miscellaneous crap.

Man. I'm so excited to stop hauling water from the leaky roof to flush the toilet! I've got to be honest - I was seriously concerned about K or B stepping on some jagged, rusty, object, and then have to lose a leg. That place is a beast! I took a picture, so there will be a before and after shot following the 20 minutes it will take me to move my junk from the car to my new room.

In the work world, today I moved more buses, moved some teenagers from the youth hostel to the skills building in the valley, and moved more buses. Nothing glamorous, but I'll get my fill of the circus when the boats show up next week.

In sadder news, I have finished Battlestar Galactica. I'll admit it - I was a skeptic about the show, but I take it all back. I take it back! If only there was more!

Wednesday, April 22

Cleared for launch

Passed all of the retraining. Watch out - I can parallel park a bus and back it through a slalom course. Bring on the tourists.

About town.

I went to the Alaskan Brewery. It's an awesome operation. They've crammed a ton of stuff into their property to keep up with their production growth. The outside, however, is an awning. Humble chaps, and all that.
Went to the Mendenhall Glacier. I've never been here this early, so it was great to see the lake frozen over. Well, not completely frozen; a tourist decided to walk out on the lake and he fell in!

Also went to a cooking school here in town and learned how to make a couple of great seafood dishes. Chef cooked, we tasted. It was fun.

I found an animal head I would hang on my wall! This was here the last time I was in Juneau and I sort of fell in love with it. I won't bring it home, but maybe someday I'll try to make my own wicker moose head.

Revisited a favorite oddity. Pel Menis is a restaurant that serves one thing, Russian dumplings. The options are with hot sauce or without. Sour cream is optional, and they throw in some bread to calm the heat. When it's raining outside, and you're cold to the bone, this is a great way to warm up. And it's tasty!
The house was so cold I built a fire instead of huddled under layers of blankets. It smoked up the room until I got the flew and fan working properly. I don't know if Baxter was cold too, or just interested, but he hung out by the fire for a good hour. Maybe cats like ambiance. Or maybe he's critiquing my method.

I have my retraining today. 308 point inspection of the coach, followed by maneuvering the bus through an obstacle course. I hate those cones. If I haven't forgotten my pivot points and bus-geometry, I'll be driving for the next ship. And that is a very good thing.

Monday, April 20

Making use of my free time? Questionable.

Yes, I've been looking for housing. But there are only so many postings I can go through before I get some sort of response. With all this time, my mind has started to wonder again, and I'm getting ideas about my coffee shop, how I want to market it, icons, logos, etc. I've got octopus and ink on my brain!

This past weekend was the World Barista Championship, held in Atlanta, GA. Reading through the performances, and finding out that US champ, Mike Phillips, took 3rd (!!!), makes me want to run out of this semi-frozen tourist trap and get my hands on a good grinder and machine. I'll get a van and serve coffee out of the side! I'll travel the city/state/country to share coffee knowledge and good espresso to boot! It'll be small, but good, and eventually I'll get my shop, in a college town, with the ideas I've been jumbling about my head finally in real life!

Anyway. Until that happens, I'll keep growing my idea book, save my pennies, and survive this bus adventure.

If you want to read about it, Barista Magazine did some great work at the WBC and blogged about it.
Today I'm not driving, but instead, doing a ride-a-long. There is a new route and tour that I need to get acquainted with, and with the first cruise ship in port today (an early ship on an around the world cruise) I can do something work related. I'm really looking forward to it. It will be nice to listen to another driver's tour also. Hearing how others present information and which bits of information they choose to say when is always helpful.

I have a meeting with a landlord this afternoon to get an application and chat, and that may result in me moving into a house, on the top floor, with three over-30 men. I called about the room, and Bob, the owner says, "You know there's nothing but a bunch of guys in that house?" Yeah. Well, I'll take guys with running water over no guys and brushing my teeth in the coffee shop.

Sunday, April 19

I knew I liked coffee shops for a reason!

House search continues. Some of the craigslist ads answered back, all nos. I'm making progress though. Of the four responses I got back from ads, two of them offered to meet up and grab a beer to lament my troubles, saying that it's better to know people in this town than not. It is one big clique.

I was surfing through more posting just now and a dude next to me in the coffee shop struck up conversation over the site. He says the house he's staying at has an opening in May. That he'll talk to his land lord and give me a call. Seems like a nice fellow. Name is Paul and he's a pilot for one of the companies I'll be taking tourist to. I'm not getting too excited, but it's nice to have a lead.

More folk fest tonight. Hopefully training tomorrow.

Saturday, April 18

April 18th

I have a special place in my heart for April 18th. It involves Nick Africano's music and a parking lot.

This year's April 18th is less exciting than last. Some reading, coffee drinking, and prodding the Internet to unfold potential future places to live. I put out the lines, so hopefully I get a bite. I'm going to have to pay more than I'd hoped. But, there will be water! There will be heat!

Listened to some of the folk festival at the Silverbow Bakery. Met Melissa, a bartender who was happy to invite me out to enjoy more music tonight with her friends, and who, it turns out, knows some of the same people I do. My small world gets smaller.

No word on my drug test coming back, so I'm bus-free until Monday at least.

Thursday, April 16

Miles for the trip - 5900! Now, lets go drive in circles.

Before I get too far into my life in Juneau, I'd like to pat myself on the back. I did the calculations, and my trip from Bloomington to Juneau, via visits to Dan, Sarah, Ciara and Adam, and the Spokane clan puts my mileage over 5,900 miles! There where hundreds of miles where I thought I heard little noises that made me rigid for hours, fearing I would be stuck in the middle of the ________ (you choose: Oklahoma/California/Oregon/B.C.) wilderness, but I made it. There were support phone calls, books on tape, and many cups of coffee. So, thanks to everyone, and nice job me.

Now, on to the more recent past.

I met with Ron and saw the house today. To say the least, it is in a sad shape. The good news is Ron has agreed to not charge me rent while it is getting into the agreed upon condition. This gives me the time I need to 1) help get my areas into livable condition, or 2) look for a new place to live. Either way, I'll be ok. It's just the newest challenge I've been given.

I went to the bus yard to meet the people I've been talking with for months, fill out paperwork, and get an idea of what my next weeks will look like. I'm doing my refresher training tomorrow if my drug test results come back. The training will be reacquainting myself with the bus via pre-trip test and four hours of driving around a 25 mile loop of roads. The pre-trip will be me and my re-trainer, Mikey, walking around a coach while I point, feel, and visualize 308 points of inspection. I don't know how many I need to pass, but an 80% is 246 items. I would beat myself up if I got anything less.

That means I've been cramming. All the things I learned between February and May of 2004 need to be taken out of my cranial storage. Phrases like "the blower boxes are mounted and secure" and "The emergency engine shut off switch is in the off position" will be used again. I'll get intimate with u-bolts, push rods, brake drums, valves, and steering linkages. I'll be trying to remember the proper pressures and timing for the break test and emergency procedures. Radio checks. Fast idle. Various sight glasses containing various viscus materials used to keep the coach running. Lights! Camera! Action! And after all that I'll be ready to go back on my 53 foot stage to entertain tourists on those 25 miles of looped road.

Let's hope I didn't come all of those 5,900 miles just to fail now.

Wednesday, April 15

In Juneau

I made it. I'm here.

I got off the ferry tonight just before 9pm and called Ron, the dude I'm supposed to be staying with. I asked for directions and he said he had a really busy day, and could we talk tomorrow? I said I was taken by surprise, as I was under the impression that he would call me before getting on the ferry to make arrangements if there was a problem. I couldn't get a straight answer out of him. I hung up to call hotels, hopefully finding one that would be cat friendly, but instead I called Dan and fell apart. I just wanted to get to town and sleep in a place I wouldn't be moving from in 12 hours. I was already worried about the cats, who have been in the car for 46 hours. I didn't want to pay for a hotel room when I was expecting to be moving into my summer home. Ron was telling me things about his daughter's pipes freezing, needing to file an extension on his taxes, and feeling tonight wouldn't be good for him. I don't feel this is the right foot to be starting on in a professional relationship. Now I have second thoughts of staying there at all.

I tried to make plans to meet him tomorrow, as he suggested, then he didn't want to do that. I insisted and set the place, letting him set the time. He said "late morning." I said 10 or 10:30? "How about 11." he says. Dan was skeptical that he would show at all. I'm not going to hold my breath. I'll let you know how it goes.

How about some good news? The ferry ride was beautiful! Here are pictures from that, and the last leg of my drive. There were caribou! Mountains! Snow!

Skagway! It's a little town. Three serious blocks by about 13 blocks. Put an airstrip on one side, Mountains on two sides, and the harbor on the end, and that's it. Cute town, beautiful surrounding, and friendly folks. And a coffee shop!

This is the coffee shop. If you look at the counter, they are using half of a canoe for display space. Kitchy and fun.
This was all I saw of Baxter and Kodak near the end. That little white bit is Baxter's paw. The boys just couldn't take all of the new sounds, smells, and sights. They are in self preservation mode.
A backwards glance of Skagway's port.
More on my living situation when I know. For now I'm at a hotel in the heart of downtown. This week there is a folk music festival going on. I can hear it wafting up. Banjos, guitars, harmonicas, and maybe a wash board or two. I'm excited to check it out.

Sunday, April 12

Day two in Canada

I left Spokane early Saturday, and made it to Bellingham by noon. Had a moment at the Bagelry and drove about to see the old spots. I was planning on staying for a few hours then moving on, but once I got there, I really wasn't interested in stopping anywhere. I pulled into a few places, but I felt too guilty about leaving the cats penned up to do more than buy a bagel and a cup of coffee. So I drove.

I stopped the first night at Williams Lake. Parked in a church parking lot and snoozed for the night. My headlight blew out in the morning after getting coffee from the most unpleasant man I've met in awhile. I had an extra in the trunk (in an easily accessible spot) and changed it under a street light.

Tonight I'm in Dease Lake, as the only guest in a huge hotel. They don't get many travelers this far north this time of year. If I keep up my pace I'll be in Skagway tomorrow, quite a bit a head of schedule. I'm just glad the passes are open and the weather looks clear.

Here are pictures from the car. Who knows where they were taken, specifically.

Also, I can recommend Anansi Boys and The Moment I First Believed. The miles are melting

Thursday, April 9


Not only will I, my car, and my cats embark on an epic journey, but so will my coffee cup. Thanks to Linda Swift, Dan's absolutely wonderful mother, I have been reunited with my mug, an item which brings me much happiness, and selflessly transports my drug of choice.

I left my mug in Chicago while visiting on Dan's spring break. After remembering and telling Dan how unfortunate it was that my travel mug would be absent on this, my big road adventure, a box arrived at my dad's house with it and homemade tasty treats inside. Thanks Linda!

Besides coffee, the other love my father gave me was a love of Samoa Girl Scout cookies. My dad doesn't mess around when cookie time comes. He doesn't buy them by the box. He buys them by the case!

This is my dad, Glen, looking at my maps of British Colombia, making sure all of the sage advice he gave me was indeed what he should have said. Dad has traveled to Alaska and back three times, and flown another handful. He is excited that I'll be sharing that with him, even if he doesn't get to come along.
Kodak and Baxter have made themselves at home at dad's. Dad and I spent the day together, going through some shops, and trying to track down the last needs before I leave on Saturday. We visited a great antique shop in Downtown Spokane called Finders Keepers. I had never been in the basement, as I am usually overwhelmed by the jewelry and clothing upstairs, but I was happy to finally find it today. There was great stuff!

Wednesday was the first day of Passover, and it so happens that mom took the day off work to prepare for it. She, my step dad Martin, and I went to breakfast, got the needed groceries, then came back to the house. Below is me with my mom, Renee.
Mom and Martin!
Mom and Martin, happy (yet exhausted) to have the preparations done.

My mom used to make pottery. The candle stick holder in the front, shaped like a pomegranate, was one of her creations. Beside it is the cup they used for Elijah.

Mom and I made an army's worth of haroset, an apple and nut dish that represents mortar. It is very simple, but tasty. Apples, walnuts, cinnamon, lemon juice, all spice, and wine.

Like I said, we made a lot of it!

My mom likes cats too. Her glasses case is presented here as evidence.

And this is Delilah. My sister, Ciara, gave her to me on December 18th, 1998 after my childhood cat, Licorice (better known as Pudder) was never to return to the farm. I went to college and kept moving about, and it was better for her to stay with mom, and mom to stay with her. They are a good fit for each other.

Frank's Diner is iconic in Spokane. Its being a train car automatically gives it flare, but it doesn't disappoint once you get inside. It has quirky wait staff, fast grill cooks, and soul food. Their coffee isn't half bad either. Still diner coffee, but good diner coffee.

I've also seen the Dormaiers and my friend Rena, but when ever I get around them, we talk and talk and talk, and I never seem to remember to take out my camera. I don't see them very often (I think we decided it had been 4 years for the Dormaiers!) so there was even more to share.
One more day in town! I have a drug test tomorrow, which should expedite the process once I get to Juneau, and another thing or two to track down.
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